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living with synergy

Are You Serious Enough About Having Fun?

7 Easy Ways to

Make Playtime a Priority Remember how you felt as a kid on the last day of school—the excitement of being “out for the summer”? This meant no studying, fewer responsibilities, beach vacations and relaxed time to do a whole lot of nothing. By the time fall rolled around, we were rested and ready to begin a new school year.

T

he speed of life is faster now than when we were kids, and for most purpose-driven professionals, the dog days of summer don’t automatically have precious downtime built in anymore. In fact, many of us are busier than ever keeping the bases covered at work and at home, and active kids happily occupied.

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healthQuest | Summer 2015

How sad is it that the average preschooler laughs or smiles 400 times a day, but then the number drops to only 15 times a day by the time people reach age 35! Seems like once we’re grown-ups, with adult roles to play, tasks to juggle and hats to wear, we forget about making playtime a priority.

One thing we cannot create more of is time. Each of us gets only 525,600 minutes per year, and as new tragedies unfold daily, we’re not always guaranteed all of them. It’s been five years since my biggest defining moment, where a brush with death reminded me that life is short and meant to be played all out. That’s why I’ve NEVER been more serious about having fun, or more passionate about helping others live a restorative lifestyle for balanced success—one that creates a clear mind, healthy body and loving spirit through small steps and daily deposits of intention, playfulness and rest. While constant hard work and focus are great assets for high achievers, at times you must stop pushing and take a break to maintain a healthy, well-balanced you. Snippets of time for fun and games aren’t just a luxury; they’re one of the main ways we prevent burnout. The joy of letting your inner child lollygag should never be underestimated. Right now, check your calendar. When is your next vacation? Are blocks of playtime


Celebration Starters

scheduled into your calendar each week, like other important appointments? You’d be surprised at the various answers I get when I ask my clients that question. Do any of these sound familiar to you? đ “The price I have to pay for taking time off is just not worth it. That’s why I haven’t had a vacation for the last three years.” đ “No one runs my business the way I do, and things only pile up or fall apart if I’m gone.” đ “When I take time off I feel guilty because everyone else’s needs aren’t met.” đ “Fun? Playtime? I’ve forgotten what that is!” đ “I can’t afford it.” (How much would a nervous breakdown cost you?) đ “I can’t relax long enough to unwind.” đ “I haven’t earned it yet. My to-do list is still too long.” đ “I’m a primary caregiver 24/7 and have no one to cover for me.” đ “I don’t have anyone to do things with.” If you can relate to one or more of these statements, it could mean you’re letting worry, stress and the daily grind rob your life of pleasure. As entrepreneur Seth Godin recently blogged, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

Ready to crank up the fun and replenish your reserves? Here are seven easy ways to make playtime a priority: 1 Goof off—it’s good medicine! Smiling and laughing boost the immune system and reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. In a recent study, American psychologists discovered that positive thinkers live 7.5 years longer than pessimists on average. As George Bernard Shaw wisely stated, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” 2 Whistle while you work. Fun and work don’t have to be an “either/or” proposition. Studies show employees experience increased productivity, job satisfaction, innovation, creativity and morale when lighthearted collaboration and playfulness are present in the workplace. And when play is not valued, the result is increased absenteeism, turnover, stress and illness. 3 Reward productivity with pleasure. Provide yourself with a fun motivation for meeting deadlines and accomplishing tasks. Since it’s not always possible to take weeks off at a time, treat yourself

regularly to a ”free day” to unplug from work, technology and responsibilities— to simply do what brings a smile to your face and joy to your heart. It could do wonders. 4 Reframe fun. Do you file exercise under the category of “work”? If so, I invite you to reconsider. Perhaps you haven’t found the right fit yet, so experiment until you find an activity you love. If you’re up for a challenge, make a list of 10 new things you’d like to do for fun, play or adventure. Remember: what you consider fun is as unique to you as your fingerprints.

Host a game night. Be a barrel of laughs. Engage in a great book. Go fly-fishing. Spoil someone silly. Get a massage. Go wine tasting at local vineyards. Watch a funny movie. Play a harmless prank. Plan an office party. Picnic with friends. Catch an outdoor concert. Try zip lining. Hike in nature. Have a happy-hour pool party.

5 Bring it on! Don’t wait for someone else to bring the fun; be a leader! Create a group of like-minded others who share your zest for life. There’s a ripple effect when someone has a playful presence— friends, family and co-workers are all impacted positively. Think of people you find uplifting and fun to be around. What’s the common denominator? They know how to laugh and have fun. 6 Get sneaky. Everyone needs a little sunshine now and then, so anonymously make someone’s day with a random act of generosity: Leave an unexpectedly large tip for a tired waitress, hold the door open for the person behind you or give someone your undivided attention. Promoting a playful spirit will create an environment of having fun wherever you are. 7 Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Make an effort to recognize even the smallest blessings, like the sunrise, a friend’s email, or the giggle of a child catching fireflies. It’s the little moments that create big, beautiful memories. When you give gratitude more space in your life, you’ll be delighted at how it spills over into your working life, parenting, decision-making and more. Whether you’re a parent, manager, business owner or teacher, remember that play brings out the best in all of us. Some say if you’re not having fun, you must not be working hard enough. So what do you say we get serious about staying amused? ■

■ Christina Kunkle, RN, is a CTA-certified life and wellness coach. To learn more, visit her website at www.synergylifeandwellnesscoaching.com or call 540-746-5206.

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7 easy ways to make playtime a priority  

Are you serious enough about having fun? By: Christina Kunkle. HealthQuest

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