“Wanna get a manicure?” my co-worker Kat whispered over our cubicle divider, eyeing my chipped white polish. It was a quiet Tuesday morning around 10AM. Fun.
“Now?” I said, a little startled.
“Yes, now! No managers are here. Let’s go!”
And off we went, giggling, grabbing our sunglasses and cell phones—feeling like kids cutting class. What felt so thrilling about it? I can tell you it wasn’t the 35 minutes spent in the run-down salon beneath our office. It wasn’t the prospect of a fresh coat of polish (despite my need for one).
It was doing something unexpected, spontaneous, and even a tad daring. Just for the heck of it. You might not think that something as simple as getting a manicure during work is crazy fun. But the excitement generated by doing something unexpected, unanticipated, and light—whatever that might be for you—can really give you a boost.
For me, that manicure felt like a little bit of bliss during the typical tedium of a regular week at the office. And it only cost $11.
Fun is not a word we hear celebrated a lot. Or if we do, it’s not really that much “fun“ at all. It’s the “fun“ team-building activities we do at a corporate event or the “fun” we have at a holiday party with people we don’t really know. It’s obligatory fun or an illusion of fun.
Is it really so difficult just to have a good time?
As research professor Brene Brown, Ph.D., writes in her best-selling book The Gifts of Imperfection, “A critically important component of wholehearted living is play… Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest (but) spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.”
Sure, we are all here to contribute, to infuse meaning and purpose into our lives. Hey, I’m a life coach and I teach my clients all about goal setting, gratitude journaling, visualizing, and taking action. But you know what? None if it matters unless you are enjoying your life.
Our obligations—professional meetings, workout classes, social dates, morning meditations (the list goes on)—do not have to feel so heavy and burdensome. But they do a lot of the time. Our rigid calendars and planning don’t always leave room for much spontaneity. Nor does our culture, which rewards productivity above all else. (Someone once told me she felt guilty for taking a long walk with her dog to see the Central Park fall foliage. What?! Quick! Someone arrest this criminal enjoying the trees!)
I get that you are busy. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be productive or miss your deadlines for the sake of fun. But trying some of these random, fun ideas takes very little of your time and/or money. And you never know, it might just totally change your day or even your month. Really, what do you have to lose?
- Try a new workout. Ditch the Tuesday night indoor cycling class that you attend religiously to sample a salsa class.
- Phone a friend. Call a positive pal to relive a funny memory. A 10-minute call with a good friend is like taking a vitamin for the soul. Do it while cruising Whole Foods or waiting for your prescription at Walgreens. Easy!
- Get a little weird. One of my old co-workers used to do an Egyptian-style walk past the conference room while I was on the phone. I had to suppress my laughter every time. I still always break out into a smile thinking about it.
- Take a walk. Just get up. Start walking. End up somewhere new. You will find your way home, I promise. Walk without a destination. Be alert and open, and you might find something awesome you’ve never noticed before.
- Just dance. Dance in your own living room. Put on your favorite Spotify playlist and just shimmy around for a few minutes. Busting a move has been shown to give you a huge boost in mood and even help relieve anxiety and depression.
- Do something creative. Without a goal in mind. Paint something. Sing loudly as you make your coffee. Flip open a cookbook and cook whatever appears on the page you land on.
- FaceTime a friend—while wearing a face mask. Pretend you are oblivious to the mask.
- Book tickets for something you’ve been meaning to. A weekend getaway with your best friend. A Broadway show. A concert. The anticipation is as fun as the event itself.
- Go “shopping.” Go into a store you have never shopped in, and try something on that you would never usually wear.
- See how many grapes can fit in your mouth. Make a $5 bet with someone over it.
- Walk into a movie theater. Purchase a ticket to whatever is playing next.
- Wear something you have never worn—like a bow tie or cocktail dress—even just to pick up your dry cleaning.
There are a million things that you can do that are harmless and fun. Even brainstorming fun stuff is fun! Take it from Brown: “When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.”
It’s true. Some of the happiest relationships I know exist between people who are successful and poised most of the time, but who act “weird” and “strange” in private, laughing at their secret goofiness.
Having fun is up to you. It’s free and healthy and important. What are we all on this planet for if not to enjoy the ride? It’s safe to have fun. Now go do something unproductive! All you have to remember? Enjoy every second of it.
I love hearing your tips! What do you do in order to have fun? Please share with my in the comments box below!
This article originally appeared in Greatist.