Adulthood is, admittedly, not always fun; our lives often revolve around work, taking care of our homes, and keeping ourselves — and those we’re responsible for — alive. However, when we neglect fun, we often have more difficulty meeting our physical and mental health and wellness goals.
As Adrienne Farrell, Director of Corporate Wellness at Arootah, explains, “By nature, humans are fun! However, with the responsibilities of adulthood, the ability to have fun can become so much less familiar and accessible than when we were children. Here’s your reminder: Life is short, go have some fun! Not only does it help reduce stress, promote mental well-being, and foster positive social connections, but having fun also leads to a more fulfilling and rewarding life.”
Having fun as an adult isn’t just about enjoyment; it also offers several benefits to your overall health and well-being. We’re covering three scientifically proven ways that having fun as an adult helps you stay healthy; plus, some strategies you can use to start integrating fun into your everyday routine.
1. Fun Reduces Stress
In a 2015 study from the University of California, Merced, researchers found that engaging in enjoyable leisure activities provides you with a range of health benefits, including reduced stress, an improved mood, and a lower heart rate. Additionally, when you find ways to have fun, you become more psychologically engaged in the world around you.
To reap the most benefits out of a fun activity, opt for activities that demand your complete focus and allow you to detach from external pressures. This practice can help you avoid feelings of boredom that can lead you to unhealthy habits such as overeating or over-indulging in alcoholic beverages. Moreover, the perks endure well beyond the actual activity. Notably, study participants reported feeling less stressed and experiencing better moods throughout the day, hours after they’d enjoyed a fun activity.
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2. Fun Improves Cognitive Function
Having stress-free fun has been directly linked to overall improved cognitive function. When you attempt to engage in fun activities on a regular basis, you’re likely to also engage in new experiences and learn advanced skills.
Additionally, one writer from Modern Minds explains, when you have a fun experience, your brain simultaneously experiences increased levels of dopamine, oxygen, and endorphins, which improve cognitive function. Habitual fun experiences help to reduce cortisol levels and increase serotonin levels.
3. Fun Enhances Social Connections
Want to have even more fun? One study suggests that simply enjoying a fun activity in a social setting increases both your brain’s interpretation of how fun an activity is, as well as the value of social bonds. Additionally, as Utah State University professor Emma Parkhurst notes, enjoying a hobby in a group setting not only leads to stronger social connections, friendships, and support systems, it may also benefit your mental health by helping you manage symptoms of depression or anxiety that you may not recognize when enjoying a hobby on your own.
Having trouble finding fun ideas or summer activities that really allow you to enjoy yourself? In a 2023 NPR article on the health benefits of having fun as an adult, April Fulton recommends identifying your “fun magnets,” or the elements of an activity that make that activity fun regardless of what that activity specifically is, consciously scheduling fun into your routine, and unplugging.
Having trouble fitting in those group activities or staying motivated? Emma Parkhurst recommends not trying to overdo it with group fun time every single day, but, instead, aiming to have fun once a week while delegating tasks or responsibilities that might be standing in your way.
You can also try to plan micro breaks into your day for fun, even if that’s something as simple as discussing your favorite show with a coworker in the middle of the workday or meeting a friend for a fitness class or hobby-based club after your commute.
The Bottom Line
Having fun is an important part of maintaining your physical and mental health, and thus remaining productive and successful in a professional setting. It’s important to note that you won’t reap the physical and mental benefits of having fun if you’re not truly having fun. As you plan activities, consider whether they’re truly activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
Ask yourself: Are your so-called “fun” activities merely activities that you’ve always done, or do you truly look forward to doing them? Are you just tagging along in someone else’s idea of fun, or is this something you would choose to do on your own?
Invest your precious time in activities that you truly look forward to, and you’ll see the many benefits that result from doing so.