“Have Fun”: A Tiny Greeting with Huge Impact

I’m an executive coach that helps clients achieve elite performance. Most of my time is spent doing serious work, with serious clients. Yet I still urge every one of them to “HAVE FUN!”

The reason is very simple.

Fun is a contagious positive force for you, and for everyone around you. Fun is good for you, even if you have serious physical, mental or emotional challenges. Perhaps I should say especially if you have major challenges.

Fun is an attitude. It’s a physical process that starts deep in your brain. From there it ignites several important chemical and hormonal pathways. It results in characteristic behavior – smiling, laughing, sparkling eyes, relaxed shoulders and an easy gait. When you have fun, you reach out and touch other lives. All of these actions spread goodwill and reward the giver.

This is a powerful virtuous cycle.

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 weren’t enjoying yourself, releases the feel-good hormone serotonin, which directly elevates your mood and indirectly counters the negative impact of stress. Laughter adds more benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, longer life and a stronger immune system.

When you’re having fun, you reach out more to others, physically and socially. Both bring health benefits. Affectionate physical contact stimulates the release of several powerful hormones. Dopamine, endorphin and oxytocin all work directly to elevate mood while reducing stress and anxiety. They have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, heart health, and immune strength. Reaching out socially is a powerful driver of emotional health. So-called “pro-social” behavior also has direct physical benefits. This is more pronounced when you engage with others, rather than simply connecting with them. When you have fun, you take social interaction beyond a superficial connection into the territory of deep engagement. Abundant reward follows.

When I suggest to someone that they “have fun”, it implies that they have active control over their disposition. This is true.

We have complete voluntary control over our thoughts (if we choose to). We can lead our brain towards positive, fun thoughts. The cognitive brain then co-opts the emotional brain, and you convert thoughts of fun into a desire for fun. Together, the cognitive and emotional brains override any reservations harbored in the protective and conservative primitive brain. The 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 habit. Any behavior that you deliberately sustain for 42 days becomes entrenched.

Just try it!

Finally, remember to be thankful for fun. Appreciation is an immensely powerful mindset. It not only reinforces the virtuous cycle with a positive feedback loop, but it becomes explicit to the world in the form of gratitude, a potent force for good in your life and the world around you.

When I say that tiny little phrase as a terminal greeting in all my emails and blogs, I hope you understand now that it’s not a trivial throwaway phrase denoting imminent separation.

Instead, it’s a meaningful plea for you to manifest the cognitive and emotional state that will bring light, health and happiness into your own life, and the many lives that you touch.

HAVE FUN,

Roddy

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