I’m an executive coach who helps my clients achieve elite mental and physical performance. Most of my time is spent doing serious work, with serious clients. Yet, as anyone who recognizes my email sign-off knows, I always urge every one of them to “have fun!”
The reason is very simple.
Fun is a contagious positive force for you and everyone around you. Fun is good for you, even if you have significant physical, mental, or emotional challenges—or perhaps I should say especially if you have significant challenges!
Fun is more than an attitude. It’s a physical process that starts deep in your brain. When you generate fun, have fun, or participate in fun, your body releases hormones that elevate your mood. The act of smiling alone, even if you aren’t enjoying yourself, releases the feel-good hormone serotonin, which directly elevates your mood and indirectly counters the negative impacts of stress. Laughter adds even more benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, longer life, and a stronger immune system.
This is a powerful virtuous cycle.
When you’re having fun, you reach out more to others, physically and socially. Both aspects bring you health benefits. Affectionate physical contact stimulates the release of dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin, which all work directly to elevate mood while reducing stress and anxiety. But you don’t have to reach out physically to achieve these benefits; reaching out socially is also a powerful driver of emotional health. So-called “pro-social” behavior has direct benefits. This is more pronounced when you fully engage with others—and when you have fun, you take social interaction beyond a superficial connection into that territory of deep engagement. Abundant reward follows.
But what if you’re not in the mood for fun? What if you’re too stressed, too tired, too overwhelmed, too anything for fun?
When I suggest to someone that they “have fun,” it implies that they have active control over their disposition—and that’s the truth!
If we choose to, we have complete voluntary control over our thoughts. Mother Nature gave us that ability as a part of our natural wiring, gifting us a natural disposition toward health, happiness, and success. We can intentionally lead our brain toward positive, fun thoughts. You see, the negative thoughts we have are a product of our overprotective and fearful reptilian brain, which is focused solely on our safety. But we have the power to use our cognitive brain to send more positive messages—messages focused on fun. The cognitive brain then co-opts the emotional brain, and you convert thoughts of fun into a true desire for fun. Together, the cognitive and emotional brains override any reservations harbored in the protective and conservative primitive brain. And the end result is that you actually have fun!
So, even if you don’t feel in the mood for fun—and perhaps haven’t felt in the mood for some time—you are still able to change your hard wiring in a positive way. If you do this often enough, for long enough, fun becomes a healthy default. After all, any behavior that you deliberately sustain for 42 days becomes entrenched as a habit.
When I add that tiny little sentence—“Have fun!”—as a terminal greeting in all my emails and blogs, it’s not a trivial, throwaway phrase. Instead, it’s a heartfelt plea for each of my readers and clients to manifest a cognitive and emotional state that will bring light, health, and happiness into their own lives, and the many lives that they touch.
So don’t wait…have fun!