Are you trudging through life? Do others see you as a lugubrious prophet of doom, living a life mired in gloom? Perhaps your sole objective for each day is to keep a lid on the low-level angst that plagues you day in, day out: cares and concerns about the past, the present, and the future…
But life is too short, too precious to waste it on a relentless assault of ifs and buts. When we were younger, we took our happiness for granted; now that we are older, we wish we hadn’t. At the same time, much of our inability to ‘find happiness’ is largely of our own making: we demand so much more from life than we did as children. Happiness for many adults comes with a price tag or at an emotional cost: the promotion, the car, the longed-for child, the drop-dead gorgeous boyfriend. When we’re children, it’s free: splashing in and out of muddy puddles, pillow fights, and building dens in the garden costs nothing. Sadly, our adult ‘if’ and ‘but’ mentality leads us to a sense of entitlement with its attendant frustrations and fears, and holds us captive to an illusory happiness that is nothing but a mirage… Here are three simple ways to reconnect with your carefree side as you reclaim some of the fun, spontaneity and joy of childhood.
1. Spend money on experiences, not things
“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation.” Dr. Thomas Gilovich via Fast Company
One of the few advantages of adulthood over childhood is that you have more money to spend. Studies have shown that once your basic needs have been met, money isn’t the key to your future happiness. Still, many of us make the assumption that spending our money on things – the beautiful car, the holiday home – will make us even happier. Recent research, however, has shown this to be a wrong assumption. Gilovich, quoted above, contends that new things soon lose their appeal: we get used to them (adaptation). The fact that they are always there, diminishes – not enhances – their appeal. Gilovich suggests spending your money on experiences: a holiday, an activity, learning a new sport or language. Experiences become part of who we are; by contrast, material things remain separate from us. Shared experiences are particularly important for several reasons, not least because you’re more likely to feel a bond with someone you went scuba-diving with than someone who has the same laptop as you.
2. Embrace play
Studies have shown that when we embrace play, we cope better with stress which has a positive impact on our overall sense of wellbeing. Furthermore, these studies show that the ability to ‘lose yourself’ whilst engaging in something purposeless, fun and pleasurable is critical to fostering good relationships and boosts wellbeing. Still, as adults, we seem to dismiss all forms of play except the competitive kind, even though the available scientific evidence confirms that spontaneous, pleasurable, non-competitive play is just as important for adults as it is for children. It’s time to get serious about play. So, how do you play? Psych Central offers several suggestions:
- Surround yourself with playful people
- "Mine your past” for play memories. Can you recreate any?
- Play with children: learn from the pros.
3. Laugh more
If you missed my video article about the science of laughter, please check it out now: it will make you appreciate this point much more. Numerous studies have found that people who are able to use humour in difficult situations are more likely to perceive themselves as being better able to cope with life. So, find ways to get more humour into your life. Tell jokes more or, if you don’t think you’re any good, repeat others’ jokes. Forward funny emails to your friends. You don’t have to be a laugh-a-minute character: simply getting reacquainted with your sense of humour will make life seem much more fun.
It’s time to start having some serious fun. What you will do, and who will you invite to join you?