Do you ever feel a bit guilty if you take some time off, or if you do things just for fun, or if you make time for play?
One of the features of our modern world is the over emphasis upon work, which rewards people for being productive but not for balancing that necessary part of life with rest and play.
Of the four Purusharthas or pillars of life in the Vedic teaching, one is to do service, one is to evolve spiritually, one is to create wealth and abundance for yourself and others, and the other one, which is just as important is to find joy and have fun. All four of these are meant to provide us with a recipe for a balanced life.
Most of the people who come to our events and centres are pretty good at the first three. But Kama, the pillar of ‘enjoy life and have some fun and play’, I think gets overlooked.
Fun is often seen as childish or inappropriate, and so we push it away. Fun is characterised through advertising as things like beach parties or exotic holidays, and if we cannot do that, or don’t see fun that way, we can consider ourselves boring, we are no fun. Then we feel guilty about being boring, then we isolate ourselves, and then we stop even looking for ways to have fun. This compounds psychological and physical issues. We overlook the simple things that bring us joy, fun and relaxation, be they gardening, cooking, spending time with family or pets, even redecorating, whatever it is that works for you.
In The Fun Habit Dr Mike Rucher, an organisational psychologist, lists health and wellbeing benefits and the restorative power of fun, as well as the issues in the way of people having fun. He thinks we are living in an epidemic of drudgery that is destroying our mental and physical health and sapping our vitality! He claims that fun is as vital as sleep and that we actually need it. We have been teaching this for years in Empowering Relationships as both fun and sleep are two of the 8 needs that every healthy person has to meet.
“We know, intuitively, that enjoying ourselves reduces stress but it goes far deeper than that. When we do something spontaneous, surprising or unexpected, we create special moments. “When we’re indexing those memories, it creates neuro-plasticity,” Dr Rucker says. Fun is good for our brains.
Because of our brainwashing that fun is silly (and we are not silly), we western workaholics actually have to train ourselves back into the groove of having fun, one of the ways to do this is by planning it into our schedule. That does not sound fun but there you go. Rucker’s research disproves the prevailing mindset that in a meritocracy we cannot afford to take our eyes of the goal post for even a few hours to relax and have fun.
Rucker created a tool to help us assess how we are spending our time based on four quadrants which he calls the PLAY quadrant. Pleasing, Living, Agonising, Yielding.
Pleasing – low effort and high pleasure, eg anything from knitting, listening to music, getting a pedicure, or massage, or reading, or lunch in a café.
Living – high effort high pleasure, like snow skiing, a surfing trip, whale watching at sea, whatever you find a bit more challenging and rewarding.
Agonising – hard tasks, low reward, usually because you have to, administrative stuff like paying bills or work-related things.
Yielding – low effort, low reward including social media and TV, scrolling slumped on the couch.
Pleasing and Living tasks refill our fun cup but agonising tasks empty it.
We need to work, and we need to do admin. The knack is refilling the cup so that there is something in the tank to work with. This will also help ward off burn out and compassion fatigue.
Yielding offers absolutely nothing. Frankly it’s wasted time. He says that generally, people do this because they are exhausted.
What can we eliminate from the Agonising and Yielding areas, and what can we add from the Pleasing and Living areas? If we recalibrate through these quadrants we will feel better.
Ironically You are a pioneer if you can bring into your life more play. Getting into a healthier mindset around all this is to unwind centuries of Protestant work ethic. In France in 2015 they legislated the Right To Disconnect to enable workers to turn off work phones after hours. The most sure fire way to make change is to have social interactions.
Even before coming across this article we had decided to bring play days to the Harmony Centre. The first one is on Saturday, July 22nd, 2023 from 2.30pm till about 4.15.