How To Have Fun At Work (No, Seriously)

Prioritizing fun and games can improve your personal and professional life. Here’s why, along with advice on how to get started.

You exercise, eat healthy and drink lots of water. As a responsible soul, you’ve even been known to read IKEA instructions and the occasional fine print. But when was the last time you had fun, let alone prioritize?

If you search your memory to answer the first question and roll your eyes a little at the second question, this story is for you. (Even if you’re an employer looking to retain or motivate employees, keep this in mind.)

A definition to start with: “Real fun” is “the confluence of playfulness, connection and flow,” writes Catherine Price “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive AgainThere she makes a strong case for prioritizing fun, sharing her own experiences and offering advice on finding fun for yourself.

Price, Founder of and author of “How to Break Up Your Phone” realizes that you are fully present when you are having fun. That means, she says, “You’re not brooding over the past and you’re not worrying about the future, which probably means you don’t suffer from the type of chronically elevated cortisol that many of us experience.”

As she began to compile research from other disciplines, Price says she was amazed at how much fun seemed to be involved, how many aspects of our lives fun seemed to positively affect, and how contrary to our typical assumption that fun is reckless.

“Anything we can do to reduce stress and encourage social bonding will be good for us, not just mentally but physically,” she says, noting that the notion that having fun is a health intervention, she blows away

But adding fun to your life isn’t as easy as replacing a cheeseburger with a salad. So here’s some expert advice to get you started — and moving on.

  • Do you remember when Think about experiences—recent or past—that you would describe as, as Price puts it, “so funny.” A conversation could have been really fun, she says, or a water balloon fight when you were 16; don’t think it has to be deep or profound, she says.
  • Pay attention. Try to notice moments when you feel some combination of playfulness, connection, or flow,” says Price, recommending keeping a journal to capture such moments. “If you experience two of these, make a note of it,” she says. “If you experience all three, be sure to make a note of it. And then just pay attention to what themes come up.”

The goal, she says, is to discover what she calls “fun magnets” — a personal collection of people, activities, and environments that tend to generate fun.

One benefit of dividing the fun into these three parts is that once you start noticing and seeking moments of playfulness, connection and flow, you’ll likely find that they happen more often than you give yourself credit for, says Price. The benefit of defining and naming it is that you can then see what’s already happening, she says, adding that you then have more ideas for ways to create it or “set the stage for fun.”

Stuart Brown, MD, founder of National Institute for Game and author of “Playing: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and enlivens the soul” starring Christopher Vaughan is also thought-provoking. He notes that many of us don’t really pay attention to what really concerns us joyfully, beginning with how we are as children and going forward, and our present joyful times with our natural fondness, our “play personality.”

  • Stay open. Once you’ve found something you’re likely to enjoy, Price says, put that activity openly on your calendar. “It’s like an experiment,” she says, adding that if the experience doesn’t feel nourishing or fun, you don’t have to do it.
  • Prioritize fun and games. Once you’ve identified what makes you feel fun, joy, and purpose, Brown recommends prioritizing that every day, recognizing it as just as important as getting a good night’s sleep or eating well. It’s a fundamental part of human well-being that we inherited from our predecessors, says Brown, noting that “it enables us to cope with the very difficult, very challenging world.” (Read more about the impact of a life full of games versus a life without games here.)

While individuals can and should do a lot to make themselves fun, businesses can get in on the act too.

Employers need to help employees reduce distractions and protect their time and ability to focus, Price says, suggesting better policies to help employees actually take a break when they’re not supposed to be busy with the office.

“Anything that distracts you takes you out of flow, and you can’t have fun if you’re not in flow,” says Price, adding that flow is your most productive state. “So from a purely practical employer’s business standpoint, you’re actually destroying people’s ability to do good work.”

Businesses could also create more opportunities for people to have fun together; The result of that fun, Price says, will lead to a sense of community and caring not just about colleagues but about the company itself.

If you’re looking for more resources, Price offers a 14-day course to help you Find your fun ($19.99) as well as the 30 Day Phone Disconnect Challenge ($29.99). You can also sign up for their free newsletter here.

“I stumbled upon this,” says Price, “and it really changed my life and attitude towards life and made my everyday life a lot more fulfilling.”

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