The Secret to a Happy Life?
By Howard T. Scott
This is a summer like no other, with life returning to normal after a year and a half of lockdowns and restrictions. If you’re feeling conflicted about stepping back into the “business as usual” rat race, you’re not alone. The stress and isolation of a global pandemic and social upheaval have led us to rethink our values and consider a reset. What do we do now? If you ask me, it’s time to dedicate ourselves to a very important pursuit –– having fun.
Fun is serious business. In fact, we need it to be healthy. When we do things that bring us joy, our brains are flooded by chemicals that trigger good feelings, euphoria even. These chemicals are neurotransmitters called endorphins, and they act as painkillers and happiness producers. Childhood is a time of free-flowing endorphins because kids are great at doing things that feel good, just for the pleasure of it. Adults? Not so much.
Rediscovering the joy principle
Twenty years ago I found myself trapped on a treadmill with no end in sight. I was smack in the middle of a lucrative career as a lawyer –– following in the footsteps of my father and his father –– and I was completely miserable. Like so many of my colleagues, I was staring down the barrel of alcoholism and depression. I knew I had to do something, but what? I decided to start out by giving up booze for 30 days, and that proved to be the single most important choice of my life.
When I stopped drinking it was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. I was thinking more clearly and I just felt good! Those neurotransmitters were firing and my judgment was sharper than it had been in years. I started moving my body just for the love of movement. I went on hikes, found a trainer. I found myself and I found joy again. Today, I can be found sailing around the Caribbean and writing novels. I do what feels good. I have fun!
Honoring your need for fun doesn’t always require a major life change. You can start right now.
Want to jump-start the fun? Start in the morning
When you wake up, do you reach for your phone and scroll through social media feeds dotted with the glamorous achievements of your friends and colleagues? If you’re bummed out looking at the fancy houses, new cars, and uber-organized meal prep hacks your buddies are posting, then stop it. I mean it –– stop wasting that precious time making yourself feel bad. Pick a morning activity that really gets you going. Get up a few minutes earlier and drink your coffee or tea outside (or by a window), do some light stretching, meditating . . . it doesn’t matter what it is. What matters is the way it makes you feel.
Unlock your passions
As the pace of life picks back up after a forced slowdown, think about how you can squeeze in some time every day to nurture an activity you’re passionate about. It’s tempting to let work, family, and responsibilities make you put those “non-essential” hobbies on the back burner, right? The problem with that is, you’re denying yourself a basic need. Take 45 minutes and go on the walk, finish the chapter, or pull on the gardening gloves. Just do it, no matter what.
Get serious about laughing
You have to pencil in time to laugh. I mean it. When you’ve channeled yourself to something that you're passionate about, laughter comes easy. And laughter is contagious, so everyone around you starts to laugh more. Laughter, that good, deep belly laughing activates the endorphins we talked about, much like a good deep tissue massage. Laughing is your body’s built-in stress relief mechanism. Find what tickles your funny bone and boost your wellness!
Set a goal outside of your comfort zone
I get it. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day. You do the same thing day in and day out until it feels like something has to give. This is your spirit’s way of telling you it’s time to have some fun. The best cure for the blahs is working in something that excites you and gives you a challenge. Now is the time to sign up for your first marathon, or take a flying lesson. Do something that shakes up the status quo and makes you nervous, in a good way.
If you’re seriously thinking about fun it’s safe to say you’re probably not having enough of it. It’s as simple as this: when you do things that make you feel good, you feel good. When you feel good, you raise your vibration and that creates energy. You know what energy brings? Motivation, health, and freedom, for starters. When you’re tuned in to your inner kid and living with joy, you’re free.
Howard T. Scott began his law career working in his dad’s office at 13. He mastered the nuances of the courtroom scene on the job as a lawyer, first as a criminal defense attorney, and later in civil litigation, in his native Athens, Ga. Howard’s murder-suspense novel, RASCAL ON THE RUN, is the fictionalized tale of actual cases navigated by Howard and his father, the late attorney Guy Scott.