As I have been working my way through The Happiness Project, one chapter (or portion of a chapter) at a time, I’ve arrived at chapter 5: “Be Serious About Play.” What a delicious oxymoron! I was immediately hooked. Gretchen Rubin begins her discussion about the work of having fun with the following definition of play, as supported through research:
an activity that’s very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition.
She adds to this her own caveat for how to personally determine what is fun and what isn’t by saying, “just because something was fun for someone else didn’t mean it was fun for me.” How liberating is that! When was the last time you tried to talk yourself into what sounded like a fun activity and then discovered that it was anything but? I think about the day I spent in the Natural History Museum with my husband and younger brother when he came up to visit us several years ago when we were living in Philly. I thought that on our day trip to New York City that heading to this museum should be very fun. The same way that a few years later on a trip to D.C. with my husband, we planned to visit several Smithsonian museums. Museums are supposed to be enjoyable activities with an educational twist. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy museums. At. All. Just ask my husband and my younger brother who had to endure my obvious boredom about one hour into the Natural History Museum. I eventually found a comfortable bench and waited for them to finish perusing the place. I wasn’t having fun (and forgot about this when planning for the aforementioned D.C. getaway with my husband).
So much of my life has been spent trying to force myself to enjoy activities that I don’t like because I feel like I should. Included in this category for me are:
- Roller coasters/adventure parks
- Museums (see above)
- Sewing (yep, tried that when I was younger and still am a bit envious of all of you who can do this and then Pinterest your beautiful projects)
- Knitting (attempted and failed miserably)
- Crafts with my kids
I’m not saying that there’s not a place for doing an activity you don’t enjoy out of love for the person who invites you to join them in their fun activity. But you should go into it expecting that you’re not doing this for pure enjoyment but rather for pure love. How I could have saved myself some major frustration and disappointment along the way had I known this!
So how do I discover fun that works for me? Gretchen has another suggestion – ask yourself the question, “What did you like to do when you were a child?” And when I think about this, it’s quite similar to the activities I enjoy the most now:
- Reading fiction
- Playing with friends
- Legos (well, truth be told I don’t do this much, except for assembling IKEA furniture which my husband and I affectionately refer to as “adult Legos”)
- Scrapbooks (my modernized digital equivalent is designing Shutterfly photo books)
- Enjoying the outdoors – while sitting down or walking (not hiking – see list above*)
- Going to the beach
Let me put that all together what should be my best afternoon of enjoyment: Head to the beach with a few friends who will all read books together, and then come home to assemble a desk from IKEA at which I will sit and design a photo book of our fun day. Ha! What would your fun day include?