Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Case For Fun

This is our very first challenge week here on the Art Abyss and we are talking about taking time everyday to do something fun for yourself.  Ok, now before you start going down the thought trail I know half of you are already going down, I know this idea may sound petty, but it's not.

I also know most of you are thinking, "I just don't have time for that."  Kate's been there, I've been there, we get it.  When you have a list of 50 things to get done, clients breathing down your neck, phone calls coming in every 15 minutes, orders to ship, meetings to attend, a desperate need to do something that will put some money in your account, the last thing you think you have time for is fun.

But what if I told you that if you took a 30min break everyday to do something fun, it would actually make you more productive, more creative, and more emotionally stable?  It's true.  I know because 1) I've done the research to prove it and 2) I've been there.

As much as we think devoting all our time and attention to our work 24/7 is what needs to happen for us to be really successful in life, we need to come to terms with the fact that that is a lie.  It took my brain literally years to come to terms with this fact.

As your inspiration for this week and to help you with your challenge I wanted to share a video from the 2011 TEDX conference in Bulgaria.  At first most of the talk is devoted to the sad state of affairs Bulgaria has found itself in recently, last in europe for business, education and social wellness.  However, the discussion takes a rather interesting turn when speaker Steve Keil diagnoses Bulgaria's problem as a lack of fun.  I wanted to share this video because it is an amazing example of the profound effect that devoting too much energy to serious business 24/7 can have on not only an individual but on a society as a whole.

Some of the most profound points that I think Steve mentions in the video are:

"Play: our brains are hardwired for play. Evolution has selected, over millions and billions of years, for play in animals and in humans. And you know what? Evolution does a really, really good job of deselecting traits that aren't advantageous to us and selecting traits for competitive advantage. Nature isn't stupid, and it selected for play. Throughout the animal kingdom, for example: ants. Ants play. Maybe you didn't know that. But when they're playing, they're learning the social order and dynamics of things. Rats play, but what you might not have known is that rats that play more have bigger brains and they learn tasks better, skills. Kittens play. We all know kittens play. But what you may not know is that kittens deprived of play are unable to interact socially. They can still hunt, but they can't be social. Bears play. But what you may not know is that bears that play more survive longer. It's not the bears that learn how to fish better. It's the ones that play more."

"For example, [play] has been shown to stimulate neural growth in the amygdala, in the area where it controls emotions. It's been shown to promote pre-frontal cortex development where a lot of cognition is happening. As a result, what happens? We develop more emotional maturity if we play more. We develop better decision-making ability if we play more."

"The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. It's depression. In fact, play improves our work."

I think that last statement is the one that is the most profound to me because it is so true.  Every time I find myself at the point where I want nothing more than to curl up under the covers and never come back out again I can almost always associate it with a lack of fun in my life.  Bring back the fun, my emotions stabilize, my ideas suddenly get better, I am more motivated while I am working and life is just better as a whole.

So even though it may sound silly, or you may feel like you don't have time for it right now, be inspired to add a little fun into your daily routine. If anyone asks you what you are doing you can just tell them that you are expanding the size of your brain, improving your creativity and decision making abilities and generally winning at life.

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