Before I could embark on my journey of a year of fun, I had to set some parameters for my fun goals. 

    Or, fun boundaries. I know, I know what you’re thinking: fun boundaries? Yawn. Way to take the actual fun out of fun. What’s next, removing ice cream from cake? The bomp from the bomp-a-bomp?

    But the thing is, fun (I’ve found) is a tricky word — and one that’s often pretty loaded.

    When you’re trying to consciously have more of it, you find yourself wondering, What is fun even anyway? And not only is what’s fun for me not necessarily fun for someone else, but my definition of fun isn’t the same as someone else’s either. 

    Some people, as I’ve discovered through my fun research (or funsearch as I like to call it), believe that fun is a sub-par form of enjoyment altogether (but more on those snoozes later).

    What Is Fun?

    Fun is defined in the dictionary as, “enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure,” and, “amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.”

    According to Catherine Price, author of The Power of Fun, “True Fun” is, “the confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow.” 

    Price states that this connection can happen between someone or something else. 

    Which is a good thing for me. Because there are plenty of times I’m having fun by myself (and I’d argue that I can often have the most fun by myself). Heck, I went to Disneyland by myself this year, and I had a ball.

    Sidebar: I did need to remind myself to have a ball throughout that solo Disneyland trip. Not only did I need to remind myself that it’s okay to do Disney by myself, but doing Disney alone elicits a lot of weird side-eye from strangers. 

    Maybe I was projecting. 

    “True Fun” is, “the confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow.” 

    – Catherine Price, The Power of Fun

    What Is Fun Not?

    Mo Gawdat, author of Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy argues that we shouldn’t strive for fun. 

    “Fun is the modern world’s replacement of happiness. When I am unable to reach that state of happiness, what I do is I go out on the weekend and I go to a party and boom, boom, boom, boom, and my brain stops thinking. As long as it stops thinking, I think I feel happy.”

    Personally, I think that’s a load of horse poo. When did fun get such a bad rap? 

    Clearly for Mo, fun equates to escape. 

    And while we can look at fun as a way of “escaping” our lives, I’d actually argue that fun can make our lives better. By taking a break and doing something for fun’s sake, I’ve been able to add some of that light-hearted whimsy to even my most mundane tasks.

    There’s also some anecdotal evidence that suggests fun can be good for your mental health, according to a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, “The Happiness Lab” with Laurie Santos. 

    One of her recent guests was organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who wrote an article for the New York Times on Languishing in the height of the pandemic.

    “[Languishing is] the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work.”

    Grant himself was suffering from languishing before he wrote the article. And how he “solved” it? By playing Mario Kart online with his sister (who lived a few thousand miles away) and his kids. 

    According to Grant, languishing, “appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways, it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”

    Fun is not frivolous, it’s a necessity. 

    “[Languishing is] the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work.”

    – Adam Grant

    Easy Fun: Things that just make fun… more fun

    I realized that before I could actually have more fun and create fun goals, I needed to do a bit of housecleaning first. 

    It’s one thing to say… “Okay, fun! Come and find me!” and another thing entirely to make fun a daily (hourly?) or at least a consistent practice. Before I could commit to fun, I needed to set the foundation for it. 

    Practicing Mindfulness

    What’s the point of having fun if you’re not even enjoying the fun while it’s happening?

    Okay, that’s a little reductive. There have been plenty of times that I’ve had so much fun that I didn’t have time to stop and think, Wow! This is fun! Did that mean that the fun was negated? Obviously, not. 

    But sometimes savoring the enjoyment can make it even more enjoyable. 

    Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean that you’re blocking out the bad stuff or just like in a zen state of mind and totally chill all the time. It means that you’re totally present with what’s going on.

    You’re mindful and curious about the events of your life. You’re noticing the events of the outside world as well as how your emotions respond to them. You’re curious about these events and your reactions to them.

    When you’re mindful, you can take some time to smell the roses. And you can appreciate the fun in your life that you might not be noticing. 

    Unfortunately, with more mindfulness of fun and other positive feelings, you’re going to have more awareness of negative emotions, too. 

    Dealing With Negative Emotions

    According to Price, we can’t have fun if we’re constantly feeling self-conscious. I’d argue that it’s also hard to have fun if I’m ruminating, grumpy, or otherwise preoccupied with any negative emotions whatsoever.

    I’m not saying I need to “get rid” of these emotions in order to have fun. 

    But I need to either deal with them or set them aside in order to have fun. I’ve ruined plenty of vacations, trips, outings, and events for myself because I was too preoccupied with “what wasn’t going right” in my life to simply relax and enjoy the ride (imperfections and all). 

    Dealing with negative emotions (i.e., not shoving them aside or ignoring them), getting curious about them, processing them, and letting them go (ya, so easy, right?) has allowed me the space to have more fun.

    I should mention that dealing with negative emotions isn’t the same for everyone (just as what constitutes as fun isn’t the same for everyone, either). Currently, I’m not in therapy. But if I were processing some deep trauma, I probably would try to be. 

    Dealing with negative emotions can be traumatic and scary — especially on our own. 

    I’m a huge believer in therapy. The most emotionally stable humans I know are either in therapy or have spent a huge amount of time in it. That being said, therapy is expensive, and it’s often hard to find a good fit. 

    There are a lot of reasons why someone wouldn’t be in therapy — whether it’s financial reasons or a bad experience with a therapist or you’re just not ready yet. 

    But if you’re dealing with your emotions and they happen to be too much (and you have the means and the time to find a good fit), you may want to consider talking to someone.  

    Get in the Flow

    Both Grant and Price mention the state of “flow” in their research. Flow is a state where you’re totally immersed in what you’re doing, time stands still, and you’re just… in the groove. 

    The term was coined by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who described the state of flow as:

    “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

    I agree that the things that put me in a state of flow are often fun, but it’s not a prerequisite for fun. 

    There’s also good flow and bad flow (or “junk” flow as Price calls it). Good flow is fun, bad flow is when you’re on hour 16 of a Full House marathon and can’t remember the last time you ate or got up to go to the bathroom.

    Flow should (evidently) feel good

    But even though flow should feel good, not all fun feels good all the time. According to Price, learning something new (which often feels awkward) is part of finding your fun, too.

    “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

    – Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

    Fun Goals: 5 Steps for Finding the Fun

    Instead of making my lofty pursuit of fun all willy nilly, I decided I needed to create some mindfulness guidelines for fun goals.

    1. Discover the activities that are fun to me

    Before I could have more fun, I needed to figure out what fun actually means to me. What brings me enjoyable, light-hearted amusement or pleasure? 

    Spoiler: it’s not the same for me as it is for you, my neighbor, best friend, or even Robert Downey, Jr.

    I started by making a list of all the things I’ve done in the past that I considered “fun”. 

    Just a few of my favorite things include:

    • Listening to podcasts while walking/driving (learn, humor, connection)
    • Taking the train to New Haven to walk around (explore)
    • Rainy day game afternoon on Zoom (laughing, connection, silly, atmosphere)
    • Playing with my sister’s dog (connection, silly, cute)

    Since one person’s fun is another person’s colonoscopy, it’s important to know why I even consider some activities to be fun in the first place. Once we know what fun is, we can include it more in our everyday lives. 

    2. Find ways to add little bits of fun to my everyday life

    How can I inject that fun into my life every day? How can I intentionally add more fun to even the most mundane activities?

    I’m not talkin’ like anything big here. How can I make work more fun? How can I inject more of what I love into what I’m already doing? 

    Sometimes I forget to make time for the little things that I know I love doing. I’ll just get so busy that taking walks, reading fiction, and texting my best friend just all fall to the wayside. Can I plan for more fun so I don’t forget about it?

    3. Have more fun doing what I’m already doing

    I’ve also found that it pays to get curious about why stuff is fun in the first place. 

    Reading and watching TV are fun because I get to learn what it’s like to be someone else. Listening to music is fun because it transports me to another place (and often, time). Hanging out with friends is fun because I get connection to others.

    So the task isn’t always to plan to hang out with my friends all the time or spend an inordinate amount of time reading or watching TV (which could easily turn into junk flow). The task is to add the essence of this stuff to my day-to-day activities — like work, exercise, chores, etc.

    4. Plan more fun activities

    It’s also easy to just forget to do fun stuff five days a week. 

    Sometimes life feels like you’re just getting through the workday to get to the fun evening stuff (or even get through the workweek to get to the fun weekend stuff). 

    I wanted to consciously plan more fun activities — both so I would have stuff to look forward to (which is also fun for me, as it falls into the category of savoring) and so I would have something to fill my energetic cup for the rest of the week. 

    Since I would soon find out that fun is connected with play which includes learning new enjoyable activities (sports, crafts, games, etc.), I also needed to do some research (something else I consider fun!) to find new classes to hone these skills.

    5. Honor the no-fun times

    Not everything we do or go through is supposed to be fun. And that’s okay.

    Sometimes we gotta fold laundry when we don’t wanna (okay, mine ends up on an armchair in my bedroom a lot), and that’s okay. I know that if my goal is to have fun 100% of the time, I’m going to judge myself if not having so, so much fun all day everyday! 

    I’m finding that when I allow myself just to hate some things, I make more space for the actual fun times — and the rumination of what’s not so good doesn’t bleed over into my vacations so much anymore. 

    What are your fun goals? What do you consider to be fun? Leave me a note in the comments below!

    Disclaimer

    Hey, hey! Just a few things before you leave… this post contains affiliate links, so if you buy something after clicking on a one, I might (fingers crossed!) just get a little commission. Good news: I only recommend products that I love! Which means you can feel good about all of my recs.

    Also, you should know that I’m not a doctor. More importantly, I’ve never played one on TV. Always consult your doctor before taking any advice from me (or anyone else on the internets for that matter).