Fun can be therapy
I believe that fun is important. In our society we are busy. We reward busy and we schedule so much in order to feel like we have meaning. If we can be busy enough we will not have time to worry, we will not have time to miss people, and we will not have time to regret. Likely, being busy means we will not have time for fun.
Fun does many things for us. Fun impacts the way our brains function. Fun helps us connect with each other. Husbands and wives, parents and children and friends all could benefit from having more fun together. Fun also makes you feel safer.
There are a lot of ways to have fun. My dad used to tell stories. His stories were so much fun that my friends and I would sit and listen to his stories long after the meal was finished. Some people use jokes and humor to have fun, to help them manage difficult situations. I know people who have used sports and recreation to provide a little fun in their lives. I use board games to make sure that the children I work with have fun when they come to see me.
Fun and the brain
There is more and more research happening on how the brain works and things you can do to help your brain.
From my experience I have found that fun makes you feel better. When you have fun, chemicals are released in your brain.
In this article by a teacher (http://www.kitesintheclassroom.com/your-brain-on-fun/) she talks about dopamine and how it helps learning. Dopamine is the brain chemical that makes you feel good. It is your natural feel good drug. When you enjoy a book, a game, learning interesting information, or connecting with a person, dopamine is being released in your brain. In our busy stressed out world, when we do not make time for fun, we find ourselves not releasing the stress of our day. Life can be too serious and too many people are not having fun.
The focus is on getting done, on pushing through, hanging on.
If, instead, we can figure out how we can have fun and enjoy things in our lives (even in the middle of the difficult times) we will experience the happy moments, we will receive dopamine in our brain. What part of your job is fun? What is there in your relationship with your spouse where you have fun? What do you do that is fun with your children?
Fun and your family
Fun helps you feel connected. We have seen so many athletes who play on teams become very connected to each other. A part of that is the enjoyment of playing the game. Playing for the same team strengthens the loyalty and builds the relationships. There are exceptions but generally fun helps you connect. I try to introduce fun into the therapy early on. When working with children or families I will use a game to create some positive time together. When we play together we have shared good feelings and enjoyment. When I work with couples I try to find a place of fun, a place of connection for the couple. Often in couple therapy I will asks about when the couple first met or what brought them together. These questions bring a sense of fun and play back into the thinking of the couple, even if it is for only a few minutes. Fun helps you to feel connected.
Life is scary. If you watch the news or read the reports of things happening around the world, or worse yet, the recent tragedies around Prince Albert you will find many things that can make you scared. It is good to recognize danger, to make plans to be safe and to know what to do in emergencies.
The problem is that we do not escape the fear. I remember when the twin towers in New York were hit. I watched everything I could, I read stories. I was immersed in it. This was not good for me and I had to turn off the TV, I had to stop learning everything I could about it. Instead I focused on finding fun with my young children.
When I see children for the first time, I like to get to the games. I have worked with many children who I am doing well to get a one word answer or a nod while I am filling out paperwork and asking them questions. I pull out one of my board games and the child transforms. They talk, and they laugh because the child is having fun. Fun makes it feel safe.
I have found fun to be an important part of the work that I do with children and with adults. For most of the people I have worked with, if I could prescribe one thing, it would be fun. Let’s find a way for you to have some real fun.
---Eric Bailey, M.M.F.T.
Marriage & Family Therapy
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