The Science of Play. The Art of Fun.

The Science of Play. The Art of Fun.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much fun have you had this week? How many times have you felt completely free and completely alive?

I’ve recently been listening to the Happiness Lab podcast with Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos. Dr. Santos is most known for the most highly-attended class at Yale, entitled The Science of Well-Being. That’s a fancy course name for “How to Be Happier.” What’s not to love about that?

In a recent episode of her podcast, Dr. Santos joined a research project on how to have more fun, led by Catherine Price, author of The Power Of Fun: How To Feel Alive Again. Catherine Price describes having fun as being “engaged, focused, connected, and completely present.”

It’s not scrolling or checking notifications, zoning out or vegging on the couch. It’s laughing, twirling, soaking in life. It’s that feeling when you turn off your phone for take-off and settle in for a long flight – or is that just me?

It got me thinking about why fun matters- and how to have more of it.

 

It turns out, the science of fun is pretty interesting.

Even though everyone has their own idea of what’s fun, getting to do what we want, when we want is key. So if my mom says I have to do it a certain way, it probably doesn’t count as play any more!

Sharing the activity with other people is also key! When most people recall fun experiences, they are usually with other people. Introverts included. In the last year, we’ve all seen the negative effects of isolation. It stands to reason that the reverse is true. When we have fun together, we reap benefits too.

Physically, when we’re having fun, we get a hit of dopamine, the same feel-good hormone we get when we’re eating our favorite food, being rewarded or falling in love.

And when we get large hits of dopamine, we also lose track of time. If you’re thinking “time flies when you’re having fun,” it turns out it kind of does! Yasemin Saplakoglu writes for LiveScience.com about the research of Joe Paton, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Foundation:
“When you’re having fun, [brain] cells are more active, they release a lot of dopamine and your brain judges that less time has passed than actually has. When you’re not having fun, these cells don’t release as much dopamine, and time seems to slow down.”

Not only do we gain a lot of benefits from taking time to play, but when we don’t there are negative side effects too.

Depression, anxiety, and irritability are all symptoms of a lack of play, according to Dr. Stuart Brown, the former chief of Psychiatry at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in San Diego and author of the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (Avery, 2009).

There’s even research that suggests that having fun increases productivity and reduces burnout. It reduces stress and balances hormones. It’s the spoonful of sugar AND the medicine!

 

So basically to sum it up…

FUN:
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Makes time fly
  • Decreases depression and anxiety
  • Increases productivity and reduces burnout
  • Makes us healthier

Fun creates bonds and builds resilience, in ourselves and in our families. It makes us better parents, friends, teachers, colleagues. It can actually make us healthier, happier people. And when we do go back to work, because accomplishing goals is awesome too, it helps us be more creative problem solvers and more productive.

That’s great. But I’m busy, you say. I don’t have time to do more. So how do I have more fun?

 

I’m glad you asked! Here are a few ideas to consider:

    1. Try noticing one delightful thing every day.
      Start small. Look for something that makes you smile – or laugh! – and dwell on it, journal it, revel in it for just a moment. For me, I am ridiculously overjoyed by lizard sightings, butterflies, or the way my kids say “afore” instead of “before”. Or the fact that my youngest is suddenly insisting that everyone give him “two blue Easter eggs” for his birthday in February.
    2. Invest time in a hobby.
      Reading, crossword puzzles, painting, pickup basketball games. It might feel like skipping school at first, but research shows that it will make you more efficient and more productive when you return to work.
    3. Plan a family “yes day.”
      Watch the movie Yes Day on Netflix if you don’t know what a yes day is! Pick a day and treat it like a stay-cation. Everyone gets a say in what you do and everyone’s all-in. Remember, having fun together strengthens your bond and increases resilience in your kids.
    4. Have regular family date nights.
      Put everyone’s phone away and go bowling or play games. (We’ve got some game ideas here.) Make sure that everyone gets a chance to choose the activity and don’t make it about the rules or manners. Laugh together as much as possible!
    5. Experiment with new activities.
      Take a dance class or piano lessons. But don’t be afraid to quit if you’re not having fun. Just because it’s fun for someone else, doesn’t mean you have to like it!
    6. Schedule free time into your family’s calendar.
      It takes intentionality to keep the family calendar from looking like a war plan. But just like well-visits and teeth cleanings, everyone needs unscheduled free play every now and again.

     

  1. It turns out, fun is as important for your health as eating healthy, drinking enough water or exercising. And if you don’t believe me, just do a quick Google search and you’ll find a lot more research to prove it! So, take the scenic route, stop to smell the roses, play a little PacMan. It’s worth every second.

 

  1. And if you have more ideas on easy ways to incorporate fun into your day, drop us a note in the comments!
Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Marketing Specialist

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens from all different walks of life, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind.

Ep. 29: Teen Driver Safety & Halloween

Ep. 29: Teen Driver Safety & Halloween

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Summary:
Is your teen driving or about to start driving? Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens (15-18 years old) in the United States, which makes talking about safety a vital conversation. Join us during Teen Driver Safety Week (October 17-21, 2021) to learn ways to help teens navigate the fun and the dangers of driving.  Then, we’ll share ideas on Halloween costumes for teens (and adults) that are easy to pull off last minute! And don’t miss this week’s tip on how to help teachers (or other trusted adults) make potentially difficult days a little better.

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Have a question?
If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below or email podcast@teenlife.ngo.  We would love to hear from you!

About Us:

Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.

Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

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Ep. 26: Dating & Suicide Terms

Ep. 26: Dating & Suicide Terms

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Summary:
What should you do when your teen starts dating? We’ve got some food for thought on how to help teens make responsible choices without overstepping. Also in episode 26, we take a look at suicide terms, what they mean and how you can help. Then stay tuned for upcoming movies and shows to watch with your teen.

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Have a question?
If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below or email podcast@teenlife.ngo.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Follow Us

Ep. 25: School Skills & TikTok Influencers

Ep. 25: School Skills & TikTok Influencers

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Summary:
The transition to middle school can be trying for everyone in the family, but Chris and Karlie have a few tips and tricks to help ease your middle schooler into their new routine without you losing your mind in the process (00:40). We’re also back with more on TikTok and TikTok influencers (9:30). Learn more about how your teen may be deciding where to shop and what to buy. Then, don’t miss this week’s tip on an amazing resource for teaching digital literacy to your kids and students (18:25)!

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Follow Us

Ep. 22: Talking About Mental Health & YikYak

Ep. 22: Talking About Mental Health & YikYak

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Summary:

Mental health is more than a trending topic. It affects kids, teenagers, and adults from every walk of life. But when kids and teens struggle with mental health, they often don’t have the language or experience to know how to ask for help. Episode 22 offers advice on how to be present and how to respond when a teen comes to you with mental health concerns. Then, if you’re not familiar with YikYak, hold on to your AirPods. Chris and Karlie will walk you through the app that’s been shut down and brought back to life again. Stick around for do-able birthday party ideas that most teens will love!

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Follow Us

Ep. 21: School Communication & Acronyms

Ep. 21: School Communication & Acronyms

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Summary:
Back to school is its own learning curve. Every. Single. Time. Catch this week’s episode for tips on how to improve communication between teachers and parents and how to make the most of those relationships! We’ll also translate some of the top acronyms teens are using and give you insight into why some teens might seem rude when they’re really suffering from anxiety.

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Have a question? If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
About Us:
Chris Robey

Chris Robey

CEO

Chris has worked with teens from a variety of backgrounds for over a decade. He has a desire to help teenagers make good choices while also giving their families tools to communicate more effectively as choices are made.
Karlie Duke

Karlie Duke

Director of Communications

Karlie was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. She has gained experience working with teenagers through work, volunteer, and personal opportunities.

Follow Us