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tlwe223's picture Terri Weber, MSW, CSW
Elder Care Specialist
College or Department
Work-Life
Phone Number
(859) 218-0457
Email Address
terri.weber@uky.edu

How would you define fun? I’m talking about true fun, not just something idle or frivolous, or something that is marketed as being something you cannot live without.

Having fun and finding joy is all part of good self-care. Fun increases our resilience and lifts our spirits. It can open up the creative parts of our mind that allow us to see our situation from a different perspective.

As a caregiver, our time is limited. There are only 24 hours in a day, and those hours are divided up among work, family, household and caregiving responsibilities. This leaves us very little time to find those things that bring us joy, excitement and happiness; things that add meaning, purpose and "spark" to our life. Self-care is important for our physical, emotional and mental health as well as for our ability to care for our loved one in the long term.

Catherine Price, author of “The Power of Fun, How to Feel Alive Again,” describes true fun as “the confluence of playfulness, connection and flow.” When all three of these happen at once, “something magical happens.”

She identifies three elements that make up "true fun":

  1. Playfulness — In her book, Price cites Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute on Play. He defines play as “any activity that is self-absorbing and provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It is self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.”
  2. Connection — Feeling a connection to others, to our natural world, to an event or even to an animal plays an important part in both our physical and our mental health. It reduces the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Price found that the importance of feeling connected “does not only bring us joy but has a huge impact on how long — and how well — we live.” Price looked at the Grant Study, a 75-year longitudinal study that examined which factors and life experiences best predicted healthy aging. It found that “people with the strongest relationships lived longer, reported higher levels of happiness and satisfaction, and suffered less cognitive decline.”
  3. Flow — Price describes this as “a state of total engagement, in which you are so engrossed in the activity at hand that you lose track of time.” Price cites Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American psychologist, who recognized and named the concept of "flow." He noted that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow — a state of concentration in which you lose track of everything else going on around you. But he warned there is a contrasting concept called "junk flow" — a passive state that may feel good in the moment but doesn’t nourish the soul, like binge watching TV.

So, when was the last time you had fun, true fun? True fun does not need to be something grandiose that takes a lot of time, preparation or money. Most caregivers don’t have those options. Fun can come in smaller packages; things you can find in your everyday life — talking with a friend, watching the sunrise or going for a walk.

Think of something you can do today to bring a smile to your face. We may have to work a little harder for it. And sometimes we must create opportunities for fun to happen. But as stated above, having fun is part of good self-care, and good self-care is an important part of caregiving.

Catherine Price’s Fun Compatibility Quiz can help you better understand your own individual fun style. And if you are willing, share some of those things that you find fun with us on the UK Elder Care – Caregiver Connection Facebook page. Fun is subjective. What seems fun to one person might be perceived differently by somebody else, but learning about and trying out new ways to enjoy ourselves is a way to enhance our lives and let “something magical happen.”

Stay well, stay healthy, stay connected,

Terri

NOTE: This month, UK HR Work-Life and HR Health and Wellness combine forces to help you (Re)Discover Your Spark. Throughout the Well-Being Weeks of May 9-27, there will be online and in-person workshops and events as well as on-demand content to help you explore and find that "spark" in your life.