Lighten up! Take Time to Play & Have Fun!

The June newsletter from Grateful Living ( arrived in my inbox a few days ago announcing a 5-day course on reclaiming play in your life. This inspired me to choose the topic for this newsletter:

Lighten Up! Take Time to Play & Have Fun!

The title is repeated on purpose, obviously for emphasis. You are invited to take it in and add more playfulness and fun to your life…in every season, but especially in the summer. Think how good it could make you feel…and we all like to feel good more often than not, or at least move in that direction no matter what is going on in our lives and/or the world.

Summer time means different things to different people. Some of us automatically go more into play mode—outdoor activities, going to the beach or the mountains, picnics, family gatherings, ballgames, etc. And some of us think we have way too much to do and “don’t have time” to play. Most of us are somewhere in between. Where are you?

It’s always been easy for me to play and, in recent years, some people have asked me how I do that. Huh? It hadn’t occurred to me that the idea of “playing” is hard for some people to even think about. That concept is more common than I thought. What I’ve found, especially when people are overwhelmed with To-Do projects and have too much stuff (especially accumulated over a long period of time), is that their choices are often driven by shoulds… I should go through this, I should be throwing out that, I should stay home and get organized. And these shoulds often become a trap that stifles their joy, can increase stress and lead to both anxiety and depression. And that’s all the more reason to

Lighten Up!

When working with clients who have lots to do, I often tell them the lesson I learned from Erma Bombeck, an American humorist and author, who, like many of us, always made a huge list of “Things to Get Done This Summer” that she posted on her refrigerator. Year after year, throughout the summer, she would lament how little she was getting done, feel the guilt, shame and disappointment, and be all the more determined to do better the next year. After realizing the trap she was setting for herself, she finally got wise: she put up a list of “Things to Get Done This Summer” and there was absolutely nothing written on this list—nothing! Then, whenever she DID get something done, she felt incredibly happy and avoided all the other downers that had dragged her down for so long. AND, she allowed herself to take more time to play. In fact, she experienced far more joy, had way more fun with her kids/grandkids/family and found herself way more productive on into the fall and beyond.

It can be helpful to make lists of things to do. In fact, I encourage this practice because it gets those tasks and projects out of our mind (an important part of decluttering) and onto a paper or electronic list. AND, if you schedule some of those tasks for a few months out, you don’t have to worry about them now…they are scheduled for later. The best thing to do to eliminate the stress of too much to do is to be as realistic as possible. AND, take time midst any projects to incorporate play and fun into your lifestyle. Lighten up on those expectations, especially in the summer, and take time to play. In fact, add “Play” and “Have Fun” to that to-do list! Maybe those are the only two things to put on that “Things To Do This Summer” list! Try it!

What would it take to add more play and fun to your life?

  1. Schedule time for play. Take baby steps if need be. For example, schedule one day a week to do something fun for even 5, 10 or 15 minutes. Be bold and schedule a half-day or a whole day. Be even bolder and add another hour or two, another day or two. Why not? And who says you can’t? (That could be separate topic as we determine whose voice is driving us.)
  2. Schedule fun with others AND fun for yourself. People often find it easier to play if they involve others—family, friends, special interest groups, and that’s great. But how about being able to play by yourself? That concept may seem foreign, but why not? Dance, sing, play solitaire, do a puzzle. Check out the list below.
  3. Dare to be more spontaneous. Sometimes we get so wrapped up and driven by our schedules that it’s hard to do something on the spur of the moment. Try it! You might like it and want to do it more often. It can be very freeing!
  4. Think back to your earlier years—even your childhood. Are there things you used to do for fun, or wished you could learn? Are there things you dreamed of doing? Things you did on vacation? Family traditions?
  5. Choose some fun things to do to incorporate more play time into your life. You might invite your “inner child” to help you choose. Come up with your own ideas and/or ask the people you want to play with. Here are some ideas to get you started. Circle your favorites and have some fun!

Smell flowers, blow some bubbles, bounce a ball, play catch, sing in the shower, play with toys, read a children’s book, climb a tree, dabble your toes in the water—any water, fly a kite, draw or paint, do a puzzle, visit a playground—watch the children play then swing on a swing and/or go down a slide, watch a silly movie, read cartoons or joke books, jump rope, look for butterflies, go to the zoo, feed the ducks, play with puns (they can be really punny!), go bowling, color (and dare to color outside of the lines!), try finger painting, , build a sandcastle, play in the mud, paint rocks, play with a pet (it doesn’t have to be your own), collect seashells, look in a tide pool, go to a water or other amusement park (better still, take a child or two!), make up a silly song, play the piano, guitar, ukulele or ?, learn a new hobby, skill, game or sport, smile more often (and share it with others, even if you don’t know them), laugh—a lot. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. And laughing at yourself is even better! 

Here are some advantages and benefits of incorporating fun and playtime into your life:

  1. It counters all the times we take life too seriously, including the worries, the fears, the regrets and the burdens of responsibility. It tends to lighten our load.
  2. It can create shifts in our thinking, give us different perspectives, lift up our mood and give us more energy to get things done.
  3. It can inspire us to look at the world more often through a child’s eyes—looking with awe and wonder at all the beauty and miracles around us; simply noticing where the beauty is—in a flower, a sunrise or sunset, a face—can be very uplifting. It can enhance our creativity.
  4. It can result in better physical and mental health. It can bring us more happiness…even Pure Joy! It can change our life.

In a folder called “Play” (yes, I still have and love paper files!), I discovered a “Certificate Of The Right to Play” granted to “a lifetime member in good standing in The Society of Childlike Grownups.” It then lists dozens of things we are “hereby and forever entitled to.” And at the bottom it says,

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

I have no idea who created this document, but if you would like a copy, please email me (email hidden; JavaScript is required) and I am happy to email you a copy. I do travel some (and play a LOT), so I’ll get it back to you as soon as I can.

In the meantime, to quote from Grateful Living,

“May you have a playful day today!”

P.S. I just found another favorite quote, this one by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing.”

Lighten up! Take time to play and have fun!

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