The Simple Joy of Having Fun

Fun — it can often seem quite elusive. After getting work done, maintaining our most important relationships, managing our finances and our household, and keeping up with the daily responsibilities of being an adult, fun can often seem like the dangling carrot that we never reach.

Fun is whatever you want it to be: recreation, relaxation, adventure. Simply put, fun is doing something for no other reason except it brings you joy.

Fun can feel indulgent, as though it is something we must earn. But it is essential to life, and without it, we can easily feel caught up in an unhealthy cycle of constantly working and crashing.

If you had to name one thing you have done this week simply because it brings you joy, what would it be?

For me, it’s hiking. Hiking is my happy place. Getting lost in the woods, smelling the trees, adventuring down an unknown path, and seeing what’s around the next corner. It fills me up, and makes me feel more alive.

My husband and I have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew when we go hiking, and our “quick jaunt” usually turns into a three-hour adventure that leaves us wondering how we got that far, and how we made it back in one piece. But that’s what we love most about it.

Hiking takes some work and planning. With two kids, we can’t make a split decision and hop in the car. We have to plan ahead, make sure we have everything we need, and leave at just the right time of day to work around meals.

Sometimes it feels like work to have fun — but even so, we know it will always be worth it.

Here are a few tips that help simplify the process of having fun, give you more space to be spontaneous, and help you make amazing memories.

1. Forget about the stuff.

If we were to heed the message of lifestyle or outdoor magazines, we would be convinced we can’t have fun until we have the perfectly curated list of items loaded up in the back of our all-terrain vehicles. But the last thing we need is one more obstacle to enjoying ourselves.

Some outdoor activities require a limited amount of gear to. But you never need as many recreational items as you might believe. Minimize the amount of stuff you need, and you are much more likely to go for it. Keep your “fun stash” handy, or even leave it in the back of the car so you can use it on short notice.

Less stuff = more spontaneity.

2. Focus on what you need.

With so many options for recreation, the task of deciding alone can be daunting. Do you hop a plane and spend a few days in a fancy hotel, or throw some camping gear in the car and hit the road to the local state park? In this case, it is helpful to focus on what you need right now.

Have you been busy and need some quiet and restful fun? Do you need a little pampering? Or are you feeling restless, like taking on a challenge and doing something a little crazy? Take your fun temperature and plan accordingly.

3. Make time.

This may be the most important aspect — fun and recreation isn’t just going to automatically happen when you finish doing everything else. If you want it, you have to make time for it. Grab your calendar and mark it down.

Secure the time, and make it sacred. Make sure nothing can throw off your plans. Once it’s set in stone, whether it’s a Friday afternoon swim or a weekend trip in six months from now, you will experience joy just looking forward to it.

4. Set realistic expectations.

Just because you are making time for fun, doesn’t mean you won’t run into any snags along the way. Traffic, delays, relationship tension or miscommunications can quickly change the experience. Just because things don’t go perfectly isn’t a reason to feel that all of it was pointless.

Expect a few bumps along the way, and take them in stride. Making time for fun shouldn’t be an escape from real life, but a way to make space for what matters.

5. Be present.

Once the fun has begun, be all there. Shut off your phone, close your laptop and engage in the moment — whatever it takes to actually be where you are. It can be so easy to check out, scan social media, and instantly feel envious of what someone else is experiencing.

Don’t let distraction and comparison steal the joy you are having in your moment of fun. Be all there, take a deep breath, love the ones your with, and practice gratitude for the time and space you have made for this experience.

Having fun shouldn’t be work. Here’s to simplifying the process so we can be more spontaneous, and do what makes us feel alive!