How Scheduling 30 Minutes Of Daily Fun Can Improve Your Well-Being
Although fun has various contextual definitions, the act of fun is only truly defined by the person experiencing it. Each one of us has the power to elicit more fun in our lives—sometimes we just require the right nudge.
Now more than ever, as we transition out of what felt like the longest year ever, experiencing fun is especially important. Here are five research-backed reasons you should have more fun, and why taking at least 30 minutes a day to actualize it is so important.
Why you should schedule in 30 minutes of fun:
It can improve your relationships.
Adults tend to have their days mapped out by other people's priorities. When our lives lean toward being overprescribed, we often lose out on opportunities to engage in prosocial behavior. And when our lives become routine and lackluster, our relationships tend to suffer.
Regaining at least a piece of agency over your schedule by allowing yourself 30 minutes to rediscover fun with a partner or a friend can go a long way. Psychologists and relationship experts John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D., from Seattle's Gottman Research Institute, say fun and adventure are essential parts of a successful relationship. They found that couples who are happy know how to have fun together—showing that when we partake in shared acts of humor and affection, our conflict resolution skills improve as well.
Remember to be present with others. When you are with your partner or friends, turn off your phone and avoid other distractions that jeopardize enjoying the moment. Do this, and you will see your relationships flourish.
It's good for your brain.
When you have fun, you are naturally stimulating your curiosity and using your imagination, which helps strengthen your visualization and critical thinking skills.
One way to have fun while stimulating your brain is by reading a book. Not only can reading reduce stress1, but it also transports you out of your current reality into another world that lies beyond the pages. Enjoying fun activities that introduce us to new ideas and concepts—like when we read—also helps to foster self-directed learning, which we know helps protect us against cognitive decline as we age.
It can encourage physical activity.
Experts have found that routine exercise can be as powerful in managing anxiety and mood disorders2, like depression. Although exercise initially spikes the stress response3 in the body, individuals show lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine after periods of consistent physical activity.
Additionally, physical activity energizes the release of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Sometimes referred to as DOSE, this powerful neurochemical combination plays an important role in regulating our mood and helps to boost brainpower.
Although exercise might not be everybody's idea of "fun," there are approachable ways to get started, like doing your exercise of choice for just 30 minutes a day. Keep in mind it doesn't have to be intensive exercise either: You could simply go for a walk, start a garden, or join a yoga class online or in person.
It makes you laugh.
It is no secret that chronic stress has long-term negative effects on our well-being. The adage "Laughter is the best medicine" has been well established through various replicable studies. As such, it's clear having a good laugh is a natural antidote to stress.
When you are looking at ways to increase the fun in your life, try to find opportunities for laughter as well. One study found that individuals who tend to laugh frequently show fewer negative feelings when stressful situations arise. This provides further validation that laughter can not only reduce stress but also help us deal with it when it happens. The same study showed it also helps to mitigate the comorbidities of stress, like depression and anxiety. Finding more opportunities to laugh is as easy as committing to seeing a comedy show, asking your friends silly questions, or making plans to visit your funniest relative.
It allows you to tend to your inner child.
Plato said, "You can discover more about a person in one hour of play than you can in a year of conversation." Unfortunately, as we age, we tend to deprioritize play and label it as whimsy. As a result, play eventually becomes a relic of our younger selves. But psychologists are now emphasizing the importance of play for adults. Play is a crucial part of a child's development, and its utility doesn't diminish just because we age.
Finding adult ways to be playful can help us to awaken our curiosity for play. Similar to "fun," personally defining "play" is up to you. You might try taking an improv class, or, if you have children, try inventing a game you all can play together.
Find at least 30 minutes of fun in your day to start experiencing these five benefits for yourself. It is likely to be just the thing you need to shake off any lingering stagnant feelings left over from the pandemic and a great new habit to support your well-being. Plus, it's really fun!
Michael Rucker, Ph.D. is a long-time advocate of positive psychology and a charter member of the International Positive Psychology Association. He received a Ph.D in Organizational Psychology from Alliant International University in San Diego. Rucker authored the book The Fun Habit, which offers a practical reframing of positive psychology, making the case that we should cultivate the habit of fun to bring a greater sense of happiness and joy to our lives.