Synergy Health are the team behind GoodForYou - your personalised wellbeing program that provides the tools and support you need to improve your health and mental wellbeing. They have a wide, varied and constantly growing range of wellness resources for you to access from their group of experts. Whether it's fitness, diet, sleep, social connection or competition, they take a holistic approach to getting the most out of life.
We will regularly feature articles from The Synergy Health team and in this article they delve into how you can have more fun and Play, one of our 10 healthy habits.
Having fun looks different for everyone and only you know if something is truly fun for you. As children, we naturally have childlike wonder and are keen to explore the fascinating world around us. We are entertained and delighted by the simplest thing. It's important that as we get older, we cultivate that playful spirit and not let the responsibilities of adulthood turn us into dull people.
The good news is that each one of us has the power to elicit more fun in our lives - sometimes we just need a little reminder or a nudge in the right direction. Consider this your nudge!
Make a point to have more fun in life and enjoy some amazing benefits for your health and wellness. Here are eight reasons why you should have more fun and why taking at least 30 minutes a day for play is so important.
WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE MORE FUN
1. REDUCED STRESS
Some play every day keeps the doctor away! When we are having fun and laughing, a lot of feel-good hormones are released into the body. This means that the stress hormone cortisol decreases. Consistent reductions in cortisol over the long-term means a lessened chance of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, to name a few.
Taking time off to play does not mean you shirk your responsibilities, or that you aren’t a good parent or a good productive citizen. In fact, it’s just the opposite: your level of agitation drops when you get playful, which tends to increase perseverance and mastery.
2. BETTER SLEEP QUALITY
Increased production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin, paired with decreased cortisol helps to improve your quality of sleep. Having less stress also means potentially fewer racing thoughts at night, making it easier for you to drift off to sleep.
3. IMPROVED RELATIONSHIPS
As adults, we tend to have our days mapped out by other people's priorities. When our lives lean toward being overprescribed and overscheduled, we often lose out on opportunities to engage in positive social behaviour. Playing around with your significant other can put a lighter tone on your relationship. It can also teach you not to take yourselves so seriously.
Regain a sense of agency over your schedule by giving yourself permission to take 30 minutes to have fun with a partner or friend. Psychologists and relationship experts John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D., from Seattle's Gottman Research Institute, say fun and adventure are essential parts of a successful relationship. They found that couples who are happy know how to have fun together. They've also found that our conflict resolution skills improve when we partake in shared acts of humour and affection.
Remember to be present with others to see your relationships flourish. When you are with your partner or friends, turn off your phone and avoid other distractions that inhibit you from enjoying the moment.
You can discover more about a person in one hour of play than you can in a year of conversation.
4. IT'S GOOD FOR YOUR BRAIN
When you have fun, you are naturally stimulating your curiosity and using your imagination, which helps strengthen your visualisation and critical thinking skills.
Lower cortisol levels can also lead to more headspace and a clearer mind in general. This helps us stay present in the moment which helps with our concentration and focus.
One way to have fun while stimulating your brain is by reading a book. So many of us have not had pleasurable reading experiences because we felt forced to read things we weren't really interested in when we were younger. Pick up something you find intriguing and give it a proper go, on your own terms!
Not only can reading reduce stress, but it also transports you out of your current reality into another world that lies beyond the pages. Enjoying fun activities and self-directing our learning helps protect us against cognitive decline as we age. Learning new concepts and ideas helps us not get old mentally.
5. IT MAKES EXERCISE BETTER
Regular exercise can be a powerful way to help manage anxiety and mood disorders, like depression. People who exercise regularly tend to have lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine.
Physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins (DOSE). This powerful neurochemical combination plays an important role in regulating our mood and helps to boost brainpower.
Perhaps "fun" is not the first word that comes to mind when you think about exercise. Like reading, pick something that seems fun for you! It doesn't have to be boring or tedious. Go for a walk, work in the garden, try laughing yoga, Zumba or dance in your living room. It doesn't have to be intense, keep it fun and make it something you'd want to do again and again.
6. YOU LAUGH MORE
It is no secret that chronic stress has long-term negative effects on our well-being. The adage "Laughter is the best medicine" has significant scientific backing to it. Having a good laugh is a natural antidote to stress. For more on the benefit of laughter, check out this article Feeling Stressed? Why you need to laugh more.
When you are looking at ways to increase the fun in your life, try to find opportunities for laughter as well. Finding more opportunities to laugh is as easy as committing to seeing a comedy show, asking your friends some silly questions, or making plans to visit your funniest relative.
7. IT HELPS US PUT CHALLENGES INTO PERSPECTIVE
Having fun helps to create new and positive memories, with yourself or with others. Play can also give us perspective and remind us of the important things in life.
It can be tempting as we age to dismiss play as unproductive, childish, and unimportant. The idea of work now, play later is losing its merit and validity. Play is a crucial part of a child's development, and its utility doesn't diminish just because we age. Psychologists are now emphasising the importance of play for adults.
As Stuart Brown says, "The opposite of play is not work - it is depression."
Finding ways to be playful can help us awaken our curiosity. Similar to "fun," personally defining "play" is up to you. You might try taking an improv class, or, if you have children, try inventing a game you all can play together.
8. IT CREATES HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
Play is a survival drive that is necessary for adaptation, flexibility and social learning. Play helps us belong in the community, develop the ability to suppress unwanted urges and regulate our emotions. When we honour our need for play, we tend to be less violent, more communal and healthier.
Find at least 30 minutes of fun in your day to start experiencing these benefits for yourself. It's a great new habit to support your well-being. Go on, be playful and stop taking yourself so seriously!
Source: Robin Smith (Synergy Health)