If you’re one of the lucky ones who rank high in the personal strength of humor and playfulness, chances are good you’ve had your fun and giggles today. Good for you! And good for the rest of us, too–because you brighten our slightly dimmer worlds.
If, on the other hand, you take life and your roles in it with a strong dose of grown-up seriousness, you may want to seriously consider adding more fun to your days. Here’s why.
The Benefits of Grown-Up Playfulness
The idea that cheerfulness is good medicine has been around for centuries. You have probably heard about the healing role that comedy and laughter can play in cancer recovery, and that cheerfulness contributes to a healthier heart.
But it turns out that an attitude of playfulness comes with a barrel full of benefits in addition to its medicinal value. In face, empirical evidence shows that it’s related to:
- increased flow experiences
- enhanced teamwork
- greater creativity and spontaneity
- better quality of life
- decreased computer anxiety
- more positive attitudes towards the workplace, job satisfaction and performance,
- more innovative behavior, and
- higher academic achievement
How to Lighten Up
Everybody ranks differently in terms of their personal strengths. But all of us can build any strength that we focus on. It’s really just a matter of making the decision and committing a little bit of regular time. And what could be more fun than learning to have more fun?
If you’re not inclined to playfulness in your daily life, you can find ways to add more fun to your days in ways that are comfortable for you. Not all playfulness involves bubbling exuberance or silliness. Experts in playfulness say that it comes in five different flavors – spontaneous and impulsive, expressive, creative, fun, and silly. Pick one to cultivate that suits your personal style.
If the idea of being more spontaneous appeals to you, for instance, you might consider joining an improvisation class. In his article “What I Learned from Improv Class,” blogger Scott Berkun busts some myths about Improv (“It’s not about being funny.” “You don’t have to be a natural performer.” “It’s not hard to learn.”) and makes the experience sound wonderfully worthwhile.
If you lean toward introversion, look for activities that let you combine playfulness with your sense of beauty and appreciation and find yourself splashing along a shore at sunset, or blowing soap bubbles out the window or at the park. Spend time with your pet, or cuddle up with some Mark Twain or a comedy film.
If you’re a people-lover, put together a group or find a friend who enjoys similar hobbies or interests. You can check out meetup.com to find existing groups in your locale that may appeal to you. Join a laughter yoga group. Or round up some neighborhood kids and head for the park.
Playfulness for you might involve sports or games, playing music or engaging in one of the arts or in a craft. Look for classes or workshops in things that interest you. If you enjoy music, for instance, take learn to play an instrument. Join a choir, or a Sweet Adeline group, or a barbershop quartet.
Ask yourself what’s fun, and do more of it. If you can’t think of anything, take a little trip back to your childhood for ideas. How did you have fun when you were ten? Could you do that now, or some version of it?
For more ideas, visit a craft or hobby shop, or an art supply store. Wander down the aisles of a toy store and see what’s there. Take home a few things to play with.
Where to Start
The best way to begin adding more humor and playfulness to your life is to set an intention when you wake in the morning to see the humorous side of things and to let yourself be more playful. In other words, make a commitment to lightening up.
Try stepping back from your day now and then and imagining that what’s going on around you is a scene from a sit-com. See that irritating coworker, for instance, as one of its characters.
Go on a comedy binge. Read funny books and joke books. Go to comedy clubs. Watch comedy movies and TV. Train your mind to see what’s funny in everyday situations.
Humor and playfulness alleviate life’s monotony and give us perspective. They provide us with the moments of pleasure that make our lives feel more meaningful and worthwhile. We don’t, after all, call it “lightening up” for nothing.
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This article is one in a continuing series on positive psychology’s 24 character strengths. To find the others, go to our Article Index and scroll down to, “Strengths, Individual.”
You may also enjoy “The Positive Power of Play” and “Raging Positivity: How to Be Happy Through and Through.”
illustration by Cieleke at stock.xchng