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Personal Growth

Relaxation and Fun

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Making time to engage in activities that are enjoyable, either because they are absorbing and fun, or because they are relaxing is a very important, and yet frequently overlooked component of taking good care of yourself. It is easy to get buried in the many problems life throws at you. It is easy to get overly focused on work, or on solving problems (such as the problems you are trying to solve through self-help) such that you stop making time for fun. In general, it is easy to confuse the need to become a responsible adult with a need to be serious all the time.

Being serious all the time isn't healthy, however. When you are serious, you are under stress, and if you are serious all the time, you become distressed (in a constant state of stress). Chronic stress is very bad for your health and wellbeing (!), wears you down, and tends to make you into a "dull boy" (as the nursery rhyme reminds us). Nobody likes a workaholic except the boss. Making time to let go of cares and worries (if only for a little while) and do something fun or relaxing (or both) is key to cultivating the resiliency, stamina and energy you will need to draw from when it comes time to get back into problem solving mode.

There are a variety of ways you can relax and have fun. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Play, or watch your favorite sport
  • Make love with your partner (be safe!)
  • Engage in a favorite hobby
  • Listen to music (or play or compose music!)
  • Watch a movie or show (or write and direct one!)
  • Read a fun or interesting book or website (or write one!)
  • Spend quality time with children or pets
  • Take a walk or a hike
  • Get (or give) a massage
  • Work on puzzles or play games
  • Do something adventurous if that suits your taste
  • Create or build something interesting. This could be an art project, or a practical device; whatever you wish
  • Cook or bake something special for yourself or your family or friends
  • Attend a religious service or roll your own personal spiritual practice.
  • Seek out comedy. Read humor books, watch a funny movie, visit a humorous friend, or go out to see a comedy show or improv theater.

What ties together these diverse activities is that people thoroughly enjoy themselves when they engage in them; they are absorbed and interested in what they are doing. They loose track of time. They forget themselves and loose themselves in the moment and in the joy of what they are doing (or what is being done to them). Its this state of absorption and interest and fun (what psychologists sometimes call "flow") that is important to achieve, and not any particular thing you might do to enter into that state. Within safe limits (e.g., don't harm yourself, others, or abuse drugs or alcohol), it doesn't matter what you do, so long as what you do is fun for you. Making time for healthy, engaging activities that regenerate your energy, spirit and self confidence will strengthen your ability to effectively tackle your issues or problems.

 

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