Many of my naturopathic clients come to me because they are tired, tired but wired, can’t sleep, stressed, constantly unwell or anxious and sometimes all of the above. These are people who are intelligent, capable and successful people. They might be juggling the demands of a busy job or running a business, juggling a family, caring for others, studying etc. Basically they are jumping from one “task” to the next, they don’t feel well and they seek out a naturopath for help.
We will go through a comprehensive assessment of their symptoms, diet, sleep patterns, hormones, stressors, family history and more. These things can reveal a lot of clues as to what we need to do to get them back on track.
One of the questions I might ask is “What do you do just for fun?” Sometimes, this question is met with a blank expression or “nothing” or “there’s no time” or maybe even tears if they realise that life hasn’t been much fun lately..
The purpose of the question is not to upset or judge but just to open up the possibility that maybe your life has gotten just a bit too serious or goal-oriented. For many of us, our days revolve around deadlines and targets, to-do lists, daily/weekly/yearly goals and achievements. Everything we do seems to have an “outcome” attached to it, especially as our lives have gotten faster and busier. Even a hobby like playing golf can come with the ever-elusive goal of a lower handicap or if you go for a run you might be thinking about what time you are aiming for.
The consequence of all this constant drive is potential ill-health due to relentless stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system (your “flight or fight” response) and the release of adrenalin and cortisol. Your body gets little time for the resting, digesting and repairing which happens when your sympathetic nervous system is turned down and your parasympathetic nervous system is upregulated. Basically you end up in a constant state of stress.
Improve your health by doing something pointless
Last weekend, in the papers, there was a little article by Jenny Sinclair entitled “imitating Kate Bush: stupid but I’m doing it anyway”. She talked about the worldwide phenomenon of people dressing up as Kate Bush and performing the “Wuthering Heights dance” en masse. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about look it up on YouTube). Her point: it wasn’t about perfect spins and kicks or mastering the choreography, it was about fun and doing something pointless just for the joy and the hell of it.
The benefits to your health of doing something just for fun include:
- Improved immunity
- Better digestion
- Better sleep
- Improved mood
- Lowered feelings of stress and more resilience
Doing something pointless isn’t pointless…it’s good for your health!
So, what would you like to do…just for fun?
Many years ago, in my late thirties, after my cancer treatment, I took up dancing for the first time in my life…a bit of hip hop and jazz ballet. And let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. Most of the people in my class were half my age and many had been doing some form of dance since they were in primary school. It was embarrassing, I stood up the back, I wasn’t very flexible and I lacked “grace” but I had reasonable rhythm, I picked up steps easily (even if I couldn’t reproduce them very well) and I had an absolute ball! I loved going to those classes and always left on a high that sustained me for days. I wasn’t trying to be a “dancer” and I didn’t care what people thought. I did it just for me.
Maybe dancing doesn’t do it for you but I urge you to find something that does. Something that brings a smile to your face, a good feeling to your heart and puts a spring in your step. Something that doesn’t have an outcome attached to it, something you do for no reason other than you enjoy it.
Think about your childhood. What did you love doing as a kid? Maybe it was painting or drawing, building or making things, doing cartwheels in the sand or singing. Maybe you liked to write stories or fly high on a swing.
Perhaps, there was something you used to be good at, which you have given up because you can no longer do it to the level you used to. Does it matter that you can’t perform at that level anymore? No, it doesn’t. Perhaps you can revisit that hobby with a fresh enthusiasm for the activity rather than the outcome.
Is there something you have been keen to try but never made the time for? A musical instrument, perhaps? It really doesn’t matter what you do or whether you are good at it. It just matters that you have fun! Your physical and mental health will thank you.