A couple of weeks ago a friend called me and after talking a bit told me that she was not sure she experiences “fun”. After doing an activity, her partner would ask her “wasn’t that fun?” and though intellectually she could understand how an activity (going away for the weekend, meeting up with friends, dinner out) would be fun…she wasn’t sure she was experiencing the “fun” aspect. She wasn’t talking about depression (loosing the ability to find happiness in activities and relationships that once brought her happiness) just a general noticing that “funness” didn’t play a role in her life. I could relate! So we dug deeper.
It turns out that her childhood was quite stressful, and while she turned out to be an extraordinary young woman (she is a great confidant to myself and a brilliant writer) she didn’t have the opportunity for a “fun” light hearted childhood. Things like “downtime,” imaginative play, and being in tune with one’s needs, usually happen when a child is, for the most part, free of worry. If the child is experiencing continuous stress, they often learn to ignore basic needs like rest and downtime as they are not crucial for survival. (Of course all children experience some form of stress and the degree in which it affects them is relative).
I recall in the early stages of my relationship with my husband, being in complete awe at how much he enjoys being lighthearted and having fun. I also continue to notice his need for “downtime”. My friend (referenced above) and I find comfort in being productive and checking things off a list, often ignoring any signals our bodies might be giving us that we are fatigued (irritable, unsatisfied, anxious, etc) . I have learned this about myself and am now more careful to take time to regenerate. As my girlfriend and I spoke more we realized that she was exhausted. We also realized that what we find comfort in, does not necessarily correlate to what is best for us. Staying in an overly alert, always “on” position is no longer useful to her and just like a computer that is never turned off, it usually makes the system run slower.
It was hard to always be productive. Even when my friend tried to read in order to relax she was reading self-help style books, trying to improve herself. I asked her when the last time was that she did an activity that really didn’t help her accomplish anything (unlike burning calories, intellectual growth, pleasing her partner, ect…) and it was a challenge to think of one. All of her activities required a certain “on-ness”.
For those of you reading that can relate to the overly productive type, I challenge you to ask yourself…what am I trying to accomplish overall? Am I burning myself out? Who am I trying to please? What are some benefits I might experience if I “turned off” for a bit? What happens when I finish my to-do list? Usually we just find more things to add to it. Can you practice engaging in an activity just for the sake of pure enjoyment? Also keep in mind; what you find enjoyable might not be what the “fun types” find enjoyable and that of course is just fine. What unique ways do you “hyper-productive types” use to “turn off”?
Wishing you a FUNctional April,