This doesn’t mean leading a hedonistic life, since that would be a life out of balance, but making sure that laughter, creativity, hobbies, adventure, and play are key components of it. There are people who may be connected spiritually but may not have cracked a smile in a year (such as a religious zealot concerned only about his relationship with a higher power). There are also those who are victims of the adage “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Therapists rarely ask their patients if they’ r e having fun, but it is a crucial question.
D. W. Winnicott (1896-1971), a pediatrician as well as an analyst in London, found that kids who were depressed or anxious did not develop normally. He found that playfulness was necessary for normal development to occur. This was a revolutionary thought, because most people tend to think of fun as a luxury, when, in actuality, it is the lifeblood of a productive and meaningful existence. If fun and pleasure aren’t present, life begins to lack any luster. People often work so hard commuting to distant jobs at the expense of family, working on weekends, rarely traveling, rarely having sex, rarely going to restaurants that they end up going through the motions of life without joy.
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Woody had been a hard worker since he was twelve years old. He consistently was an A student and also held down jobs after school. He delivered newspapers, and then started his own Internet business in high school. He rarely hung out with his friends because he was too busy with his part-time jobs. In college, this pattern continued. He finished his coursework in three years while doing research between classes and during summers. He entered medical school when he was twenty-one years old, and he became a neurosurgeon by his early thirties. He married at thirty-one. He continued to work long hours and rarely saw his wife and two small children. When he was thirty- five, his wife left him. His world was shattered. He never dreamed that anything as painful as divorce would happen to him. After the divorce, he worked with a coach to understand why his marriage ended. The coach surprised him, however, when she recommended that instead they concentrate on Woody learning to have fun outside of the Work sphere. He gradually loosened up and joined sports, civic, and travel groups. Though it didn’t happen as fast as Woody had hoped, he eventually met a woman on a Colorado ski trip. Now, their relationship is good, though it hasn’t progressed to the point where Woody is ready to get married. Nonetheless, Woody has learned how to have fun, how to make time for activities that don’t earn him money or grow the business or result in some other tangible gain. Not only is Woody having more fun, but also he’s a much more enjoyable person to be around now that he’s loosened up. His relationship with his kids who are with him for weekends and on vacations has improved significantly. They say they feel much closer to him, and that’s due in part to his willingness to forget about work and enjoy just being with his children and goofing around with them.
While Yogis do work with their clients on having more fun, this is a sphere where you can do a great deal on your own. Start out by understanding two of the most common Fun sphere issues and understanding which one is more pertinent to your life:
1. Exploring what gives you enjoyment. You can get so wrapped up in work and family that you have few hobbies, if any, or little spare time in which to enjoy them. You need to motivate yourself to pursue these enjoyable activities and integrate them into your life. Even if your schedule is jam-packed, fun can still be had. If you know what you enjoy doing, you can always squeeze a bit of time out of that schedule to make sure you do something fun at least once a week.
2. Addressing the obstacles to fun. Figure out what is preventing you from taking time off for vacations, for instance, or enjoying vacations when you take them. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of allowing yourself to be more playful and finding fresh ways to have fun. Or sometimes it’s strat-egizing with your significant other or your family regarding how to derive more enjoyment from common activities.
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