Why it’s important — even selfless — to have fun.

This morning, I was struck by a Life Lesson.

New York City got a fair amount of sleet and snow last week, and although most of the sidewalks have been cleared, there are still big, uneven piles of icy snow around the curbs and on some parts of the sidewalks.

It can be tricky to walk across these patches, and it’s even harder to push a stroller through them. Our morning walk to school took much more energy and patience than usual.

I hardly noticed the aggravation, however, because on the way, the Big Girl and I were busy recapping her birthday party yesterday, and on the way home, I walked with a friend who lives two blocks from me.

I was so absorbed in my conversations that I only absent-mindedly noticed the inconvenience — even when, at one point, I had to walk backwards and pull the stroller because I couldn’t push it across the snow.

It was only when I got home that I realized how difficult the walk had been.

There’s a Lesson for Life here, I think, about why it’s important to make the time and effort to have fun.

If you have plenty of fun in your life – if you make time to see friends, to learn about things that interest you, to do the things you enjoy, like reading or going to movies or hiking – you have a higher store of patience and tolerance.

On the other hand, when you don’t have much fun in your life, it’s easy to become preoccupied with the aggravations and frustrations. There’s nothing to distract you from your bad feelings.

It may seem selfish to focus on having more fun and happiness. But as I’ve seen dramatically proven in my own life this year, by working to be happier myself (and happiness takes a surprising amount of work), I’m far better able to make other people happier.

I’m less crabby. I laugh more easily. I find it easier to go out of my way to help other people. I’m less resentful, judgmental, and insecure.

And I don’t get as annoyed by little things, like having to push the stroller through snow.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Susan

    Gretchen, I so agree with you. Your post today really struck a chord with me. I’ve chosen to come to work in Algeria (I’m British). It’s a great job and a fascinating culture, but I miss lots of things that I enjoy in the UK – friends, my flat, food, my whole support network. I know that I will make friends here eventually, but I’m very aware that my capacity to shake off the minor irritants – well OK there are some major practical irritants! is diminished at the moment. Thanks for reminding me of that. I’ll be less hard on myself – and look for ways to have fun.
    I really enjoy your blog. It’s one of my little pleasures here.

  • Thanks so much for your kind words. You made me very happy!

  • This is SO true! It’s also why it seems to be so much easier and more fun to do chores or projects like cleaning and painting with a friend instead of alone spending all that time thinking in your mind about how hard the work is or how you hate to paint.

  • shuchetana

    Great post!
    Even minor details matter sometimes: how many people listen to music while doing chores? And this reminds me of how popular songs are blasted in some factories, so that the workers are less bored/frustrated while working.
    I also like the point that you mentioned in passing, that a happy person is better able to make others happy. I can’t really see an irritated, angry person getting others to feel happy. So I guess by feeling happy, you actually do _other_ people a big favor too!

  • I’ve been doing some thinking on happiness lately and keep returning to your blog, which has been so helpful and inspiring. I think the Happiness Project is a brilliant idea and I can’t wait to read the book.
    As you observe here about the snow, it can be really easy to let the small irritations of each day dictate my mood and my behaviour, but taking the time to notice all the small, good things that happen is powerfully positive!
    Thanks for a great site!

  • Hi Gretchen, this is my second comment, but I just wanted to let you know about this great post I read…
    Ages ago, when I was first getting interested in blogging, I asked you where you get your pictures from and you replied that they were mostly from Google Images. Well, this post is about sources of free pictures for blogs (since using ones from Images sometimes leads to legal problems). You might find it interesting:
    I hope you keep up your blog even after your publish your book 🙂

  • D. Stiles

    My personal experience validates Gretchen’s post. I recently spent a chilly Friday evening with my spouse window shopping and drinking a hot chai. Saturday evening we spent with friends over a simple dinner and watching a DVD. Sunday afternoon was spent with other friends over lunch discussing kids, life, travel, etc. The weekend seemed to be very long instead of being over in an instance. I was re-charged and ready to tackle the new week.

  • Thanks for the link to the post about the free photos — I checked it out, and it’s a great resource.

  • Yes having fun and laughing more easily is as far as I understand even – from a scientifically viewpoint – healthy. That’s why some time ago I placed on my blog a fun DVD titled: “Happy Feet” an animated movie that’s fun for both children and adults. Also recently wrote on my blog about a CD of ‘Shanice’ with a Song about Smiling.

  • It absolutely agree