The importance of fun
The importance of having fun…both in life and in yoga. By Gopala Amir Yaffa
People speak about the importance of health and exercise, the importance of education, the importance of discipline… but what about the importance of fun?
Fun is an element in the lives of adults and children alike that is often neglected and dismissed as unimportant. But incorporating fun into our lives has many benefits:
- It makes you happy and therefore healthy! Woo-hoo! Endorphins!
- As opposed to fear, it’s a much safer environment to learn in.
- It helps us to release tension.
- It creates space to explore and release unprocessed emotions.
- It creates an atmosphere where we can freely interact and communicate.
- Because fun always involves interaction with other people, we learn to play and live under certain rules of mutual respect, which is the only way to keep the fun going!
So dude, have some fun! The critical importance of happiness for health and wellbeing is supported by modern medical science and psychology. Physical, mental and emotional health are all affected by our level of happiness; therefore, patients are commonly prescribed Prozac and other mood-stabilising drugs for the management of chronic pain and illness. However, evidence suggests that this same effect can be achieved in a much more holistic way.
New, innovative fields of medical treatment are emerging in response to the recognition of the critical importance of happiness in general wellbeing. These include Medical Clowning and Laughter Therapy. Research is increasingly revealing that the power of fun is not to be underestimated; a recent Israeli study has revealed significantly higher success rates for in-vitro-fertilisation in women who were visited by ‘medical clowns’ during the recovery time following the procedure. Sounds odd, but the science says it works! This research was developed following studies that indicated the health benefits associated with laughter as a stress-reducer, and conversely, the adverse effects of stress on health. The results of the study are attributed to the reduction of stress hormones during fertilisation. Evidence also suggests that laughter and happiness assist in strengthening the immune system, increasing longevity, and improving the way patients cope with illness, among other benefits.
Considering the medical evidence supporting the incredible stress-reducing benefits of laughter on our health, imagine how this simple act can change our lives by supporting our emotional and physical wellbeing. When we have fun, we step away from our worries and our entrenched thought patterns. So having fun can be a kind of meditation and a medication!
Having fun is an indispensable element of true social cohesion. Western societies increasingly put a higher value on work and productivity and entirely neglect the importance of fun and happiness. Because fun and happiness create avenues of social engagement, when we have good healthy fun we inevitably make other people happy too. A greater focus on fun and happiness promotes global health and wellbeing that’s good for all.
Families and communities cannot thrive without fun being a part of their routine. Fun is simply the best way to relieve tension in any relationship, whether personal or professional. It is an attitude rather than an action; making a commitment to maintaining an attitude of fun in our lives goes a long way in preventing the accumulation of tension in our relationships. If we all made this single commitment, perhaps we could bring about world peace!
Some spiritual teachers believe that people learn faster through suffering; but fun, security and happiness are a much more nurturing environment for learning to take place. Why can’t the same lessons be learnt through joy? Predominantly we learn through our own experiences, the hard ones and the joyful ones. And what makes those experiences hard anyway? Isn’t it our attitude? So why not approach life with a fun attitude?
Yoga is really a practice of attitude; if you do yoga poses while thinking about how much you dislike someone, you are not really doing yoga at all. On the other hand, if you are simply jogging or even making love passionately with your partner and your mind is completely tuned to the present moment, you are practicing yoga. Yoga is in the mind. Yoga is what you think rather than what you do. Yoga is why you do it. Yoga is your attitude.
Happiness is an attitude too. And like yoga, it is something that needs to be practiced, especially if we have cultivated the opposite habit throughout our life.
Commit to doing something fun every day! If gloomy thoughts come, shake them off with some more fun. Don’t let sad feelings possess you; the longer you let them stay, the harder it will be to uproot them. It’s not that hard to get rid of little weeds, but it’s a different story once they sink deep roots.
One of the best ways to stay happy is not to have time to think about how sad you are. Keep yourself busy with having fun and try bringing happiness to the lives of others. Either way, being happy is a selfless pursuit. Being sad and solemn focuses our attention inward and its negative effects can be contagious; however, when you are happy you are a light in everyone’s path making their hearts brighter and their faces shine with smiles.
I’ve seen a lot of unhappy people in my time, from inside an ashram as well as in many other places. And, of course, I’ve experienced my share of unhappiness. It’s a kind of mood you sink into when your purpose is not clear, when you are not sure anymore why you are doing the things you are doing. It’s a valid feeling, but it’s also a very difficult one. It doesn’t benefit anyone, especially not yourself. Sometimes you need to take extreme measures to get out of it, and sometimes you just need a good friend. So how do we take those first steps in shaking it off? You can start today, with a little tiny step forward…just go out there and have some fun!
Spirituality is not measured by how often you meditate, if you wear white or orange, or if you say ‘namaste’. All these things are perhaps just pretences. Happiness is a powerful force, a presence within and all around you. Happiness permeates our hearts and minds and the world all around us. But we need to own it. Come on, grab hold! Let it shine!
In yoga, we say that the divine is ‘Ananda’, or ‘bliss’ in English. The happier you are the closer you are to that absolute bliss, to divinity, or to god. Don’t let yourself be bound by rules and pretence. Break free! Live your life how you want to live it. Let this bliss burst out of you like the rising sun on a summer’s morning! This is the true essence of yoga… and you.
Gopala Amir Yaffa is the founder of Rainbow Yoga Children’s Yoga Teacher Training. To find out more about forthcoming classes and courses visit: rainbowyogatraining.com