Welcome back, everybody. I had a whole other topic planned to talk with you about today and I’ve had to basically bench it because I feel so compelled to talk to you about this topic, which is the topic of having fun. Now, you might be having a strong reaction to this and maybe there’s a bunch of people who didn’t listen because the idea of having fun feels so silly when you are anxious and depressed. It feels like a stupid idea, a ridiculous idea. But the last few weeks have taught me such valuable lessons about mental health. I talk about mental health all the time. That’s what I live and breathe pretty much. Sometimes when you have an experience—I keep saying it changes your DNA—I feel to a degree my DNA has been changed these last few weeks and let me share with you why.
For those of you who follow me on social media, you will know that in the last couple of weeks, I made a very last-minute trip to the United Kingdom. What happened was pre-COVID, I had booked tickets to visit London for a work event, and COVID happened. I had a certain amount of time to use these tickets, and I actually had thought that those tickets had expired on December 30th of last year. And then one Friday morning, I woke up and checked my email and it said, “You have 18 days until you depart.” I’m thinking, 18 days to depart, where? I haven’t booked any tickets. Only to find out that my tickets were put on what’s called an “open hold,” which meant they had just put a date to a trip knowing that I would log in and reschedule it when I was ready. It turned out to be three years later. And then I logged on and saw I have 19 days to use my ticket.
I went upstairs, I talked to my husband, and I said, “I have this ticket to the United Kingdom I’ve never been to. I would really love to go.” He said, “You should go. I think it would be really good for you. I’ll stay home with the kids. You go.” That was the plan. I was going to go, I was going to keep working, I was going to see my clients, but when I wasn’t working, I would go out and have British food and maybe go walk around London and maybe visit a castle or two. That was the plan. I was so excited.
I happened to mention it to my sister-in-law who I love, and I said, “Ha-ha, you should come.” She said, “Oh! No, there’s no way I could come and I didn’t think anything of it.” And then the next morning I woke up, she had messaged me and said, “I’ve changed my mind. I’m coming.”
Now, there is a point to this story, which is, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting.” My second thought was, “Oh my gosh, that is scary,” because my sister-in-law is the most wonderful human being and she loves to have fun. What was shocking to me is I started to notice I was going to pump the brakes on fun. No, no, no, no, no, no. Oh my gosh. Now quickly, of course, I said, “Come, I’m so excited.” We went, but that response was so interesting to me. What it was, was my anxiety did not like the idea that we were going to go and let loose. My anxiety did not like that inhibitory piece, that amygdala deep in my brain was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, pump the brakes. This is going way too fast for me.”
The reason I’m doing today’s episode is I bet you that’s what your brain does too. It wants to pump the brakes on fun and pleasure because it creates uncertainty and it creates vulnerability and it creates where things aren’t in control anymore. Letting go and having fun is hard when you have anxiety. Letting go and having fun is hard when you have depression.
We went and we called the week “YES week.” Actually, I called it “YES week” because I knew this was an exposure I needed to do. We made an agreement that if one person wanted to do something, both of us had to say yes. If someone wanted to try a food, and my sister-in-law loves to try all the different foods, we both had to say yes. It was such a deep exposure experience for me. A deep, oh my gosh, pleasurable. I don’t want you to think it was all hard because the truth is, it was all pleasurable and I was so surprised at how my brain kept making problems out of having fun.
I’ll give you another example. We’re sitting at this Indian restaurant. We kept saying to the maitre d’ or the people at the front desk, “Tell us the best Indian restaurant. Tell us the best high tea. Tell us the best place to go and have drinks. Tell us the best place to get scotch eggs. Tell us the best place to have Scottish pie. Tell us the best.” We kept saying that. We were sitting at this Indian restaurant and my sister-in-law was like, “We’ll have one of those and one of those and one of those and one of those.” She’s a foodie. I could even feel my body going like, “No, no, no, no, that’s too much fun.” It’s so interesting to me how my brain was pumping the breaks on fun and how when you have fun, again, after doing this for one week, I felt like my DNA was changed. I realized how-- I don’t want to use the word controlling because I don’t consider myself a controlling person, but how much my brain wants to monitor the amount of fun that happens and how much my brain’s anxiety wants to raise alerts about the simplest things.
We went to a million abbeys and I realized that I have this deep love for visiting churches and abbeys. Oh my gosh, I feel like my whole heart just shines bright. I’m not particularly a religious person at all, but just visiting these abbeys in these gorgeous places. And then she’ll come up and she’ll pull on my sleeve and she’ll say, “Let’s go do this extra tour.” My mind wants to be like, “No, no, no, no. We’ve done enough fun for one day.” She’s like, “Let’s go.” I’d be like, “Yes,” because we have to say yes.
There’s this place called Duck & Waffle, which is a ‘70s nightclub restaurant. It was fabulous. She’s like, “We should try that.” My brain kept going, “No, no. We just had some food before.” It was all these things and it was just keep saying yes to fun. Keep saying yes, keep saying yes. Yes week, that’s what it was. I realized after a week of doing this how little power my anxiety had. I’m thinking about it. I’m just dropping down into it. You can see I’m slowing down.
Now, number one, I want to acknowledge, you can’t live like that forever. That was a vacation. I would never do that on a day-to-day basis because it’s not realistic, it’s not reasonable. We have to live a reasonable life. But I made a deal with myself as I was going back over Greenland. I was flying over Greenland looking at this huge snowy country and I was thinking, wow, I wish I lived in a country this beautiful. And then I was like, “Wait, I do.” You could start to practice being in the beauty of your country more. And then I started thinking, what would happen if I went home and I deeply enjoyed the food? Like I slowed down to actually take in the pleasure of the food. I mean, I think I do an okay job at this, but on vacation, like I said, we were practicing going, “Ooh, I love the flavor of this. Ooh, that’s so soft and that’s so sweet and that’s so tender,” and all the things.
What if I actually really allowed pleasure and fun to tickle my senses here in my daily life? What if instead of making dinner like a serious mom, which I often do because I don’t want to embarrass my children—what if instead I let myself dance more? What if I goofed off more? What if I enjoyed laughing more? What if I practiced and made a habit of implementing fun into my life on the daily? This is what I was thinking about, what’s the ratio of work to fun in your life? I mean, I’m guessing you have either school or work or family or a mental health issue that you’re managing or a medical health issue that you’re managing. That’s work. What’s the ratio of work to fun? It made me really think like I have a wonderful life and I’m so grateful for my wonderful life, but the ratio of work to fun is not ideal. It’s not where I want it to be.
Once I had spent a week of just saying yes, yes, yes, and not letting fear ever say no, it was so cool because I had this accountability buddy right next to me. I realized like once I’d done that for a week, I wanted to keep it going. I didn’t want to go back to pumping the brakes anymore. It’s been such a beautiful gift that I had.
Now, I’m going to encourage you to create a yes week or a yes day, or a yes hour. I just finished a book called The Fun Habit: How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life. It’s by Mike Rucker. A friend of mine encouraged me to read it after I had told her like I literally just had this date with fun. I had this exposure of fun. I had a yes week where we said yes to. If we wanted to sleep in, we slept in. If we wanted to read, we read. It was really beautiful. Again, I understand the privilege of having that experience, but I worked my butt off too. I needed that. I really, really needed that. My mental health really needed it and so forth. But the book is talking about how we have talked about and trained ourselves to be afraid of fun. We’ve demonized fun as if it’s irresponsible or unnecessary or ridiculous or lazy.
I want to leave you today with the idea to plant a seed where you go and have more fun. I was thinking about it. For those of you who have anxiety disorders or depressive disorder, this is the biggest FU to anxiety. It’s the biggest FU to depression. It’s the biggest “Don’t tell me what to do” when it comes to recovering from anxiety and depression. Is it going to fix it completely? No. I don’t want to oversell it here. But is it a major game changer? Does it change the way we see the world? Does it increase the dopamine that gets released into your body? Does it make the hard work worth it? Yes.
I was thinking like, I was so excited to go back to work because I had a week of fun. If I had have done my original plan, which is where I worked while I was in London, and I just visited a little on the side, I wouldn’t have been that excited to come back to work. But I was so excited to come back to work and I was so excited to sit down and talk to you on this podcast. I don’t think that would’ve been the case if I had have pumped the brakes like I was planning to for that week.
There you have it. I’m going to ask you, please give you permission. Go and have more fun. Increase the percentage a few percent or 100% or 50% or 10%, whatever you can do. But do your best to implement pieces of fun into your daily life. It will literally change your DNA. Not literally, that’s scientifically not true. Don’t take that as literal. But for me, I felt like my DNA had been changed. I kept saying it. I’m like, “I feel like my DNA has something shifted in me.” It’s because I realized even though I have so much joy in my life, I do still pump the brakes on fun and I want there to be more and I’m dedicating more time to fun and savoring pleasure.
So that’s all I want to say. Go and have some fun, please. I’d love to hear about the fun that you’re having. When fear shows up, try to confuse it by saying, “You know what, fear? You can be here and I’m going to go choose fun anyway.” Fun can be whatever it is for you. There’s no right way of having fun and it doesn’t have to be expensive here either. Like I said, a lot of the things that my sister-in-law and I did cost no money. It’s just that we were saying yes to silly things. Some of it was even like cartwheeling in the underground train station or giggling at stupid things that are so silly and so immature, but having fun with it. Just have some fun.
I love you. I hope you’re having a wonderful day. It is a beautiful day to have fun is all I’m going to say to you today. I will see you next week. We have a very cool series coming up, which you are going to love, so stick around. I’ll see you next week.