04 Apr Having Fun: The Secret Ingredient to Boost Your Immune System and Your Relationship
We know it may sound counterintuitive to even think about having fun as this pandemic continues to unfold in such a scary and serious way. The more we learn about how this invisible enemy is attacking all of us around the world, our stress and anxiety levels continue to rise and we go into survival mode. Even for those of us who are able to stay relatively calm and centered, there is an underlying feeling of concern that creates a rise in our cortisol levels and affects us emotionally and physically.
Just this morning as we woke up and shared our dreams with each other, we realized that in an abstract way, both of us had dreams about the virus. This was interesting to us, as we both feel that we are handing the situation quite calmly and believe that if we do the best we can—and we are—that it will all be okay.
But the reality is that we can get sick, and so can our children, our extended family, friends, clients and acquaintances. Already, we are hearing regular accounts of actors, journalists, front line workers and medical professionals coming down with the virus—and all of this has an effect on us, no matter how calm and collective we think we are. Every sore throat, feeling of fatigue, or sneeze creates a level of stress that we may not even be aware of.
The problem with this ongoing level of stress is that it heightens our cortisol levels which reduces our immunity, and lowers our vibration. When we lower our vibration, we attract lower vibrating thoughts and emotions, so it becomes much easier to get in arguments, see the negative in ourselves and our partner, raise anxiety, make poor decisions, etc. So, what is the antidote? How do we get beyond this ongoing stress that seems to only be getting worse?
We believe that having fun may be one of the most important and underrated ingredients in any relationship—and bringing some fun into your relationship, especially during a crisis like the one we are in now, is more important than ever.
Some relationship experts say that fun may be the greatest influence on overall marital satisfaction. In fact, having fun has many benefits to a relationship and to ourselves. Not only does fun produce pleasure, it also increases bonding and relationship satisfaction, promotes spontaneity, friendship, and intimacy between partners.
However, it seems that many people have barriers to having fun. Resistance to having fun comes up for a lot of different reasons. For example, Craig recognizes that he has a belief that fun is unproductive and that it’s a waste of time. That belief came from his father who was a workaholic, working 18-hour days and on-call 24/7.
Craig says, “I don’t think I ever saw my dad lighten up and have fun. Of course, I inherited that sense of work and came to the conclusion that playing was a waste of time and basically unproductive. I had to work hard to reverse that over the years. Debbie teases me that I have to work hard at having fun, but it’s true and I’m grateful she helps me with it because in our short time together there has been a major difference!”
Another reason it’s difficult for some to have fun is that we get stuck in our heads—and it’s difficult for us to get in that heart-centered space that we so naturally lived as kids. We love the smile on a baby’s face because it is purely from the heart and they have the ability to look at us with pure love and joy. We lose that as we get older and take on the responsibilities and concerns of growing up and building a life. We adopt the belief that life is hard, or life is scary. By the time we are older, it is easy to see on our faces who has lost the capacity to have fun and who hasn’t.
So how do we make fun a priority and bring lightness and playfulness into our very stressed lives as we our sheltered down?
In our book, The Mindful Couple, 52 Strategies to Real Love and Connection, we identify some exercises that help bring more fun into your life. Here are a few examples:
Set an Intention to Have Fun
We believe that fun is more likely to happen if we set a daily intention, one of the exercises we highly encourage. Simply wake up in the morning and say your intention to each other. It might sound something like:
- “I am going to keep it light today and find humor in whatever we see and do.”
- “When I interact with my partner, I will keep it light, loving and connected.”
- “I will do more smiling and laughing today and point out things that are funny”
- “I will play with my partner in simple ways that we both appreciate”
The actual words you use to set this intention are very personal—and while they can be the same words your partner uses, you want to make sure they resonate for you. So, set your intentions around fun privately first, then share.
Discover the Obstacles
Another exercise we encourage in order to make having fun a priority is to discuss the questions: “What obstacles get in the way of having fun?” and “What are we willing to do about it?” For example, one partner may say, ” I like to dance and you don’t,” ” I like to play loud music and you like it quiet,” ” I like to play board games and you would rather jump off a cliff than play a game.” Or, the obstacle may be around time. “I have more work to do than before the shutdown,” “I am too busy with the kids and their homework,” or “By the time the day is over, I am just too tired to have fun.”
Whatever the obstacles are, rather than use them as a reason to not have fun, see where you can design and fit in something that would be fun.
Stretch to Meet Your Desires
Debbie and Craig have quite different ideas on what is fun. For example, Debbie enjoys a great glass of wine and a steak. Craig can do fine without either, but recognizing how important and fun it is for Debbie, we now have many steaks and great bottles of wine lined up for some nice dinners. What’s interesting about this example is that over time, steak and a great bottle of wine is also becoming one of Craig’s favorite ways to unwind and have fun. When we stretch and share in activities our partners feel are fun, often times they become fun for us as well.
Identify Fun Activities
We recommend the two of you separately list 10 fun activities that you’d like to do together and then share your list with each other. Even now, in isolation at home, there are so many activities that you can do that could be fun if you’re willing to carve out some time to do them together. As an example, some of the things we enjoy doing are:
- Put on music and dance outside in the backyard
- Karaoke together (just download an app for that!)
- Have an indoor picnic
- Spend time in the pool/Jacuzzi
- Have breakfast in bed (wait, who cooks this?)
- Ask 20 questions (Craig’s favorite)
- Do a jigsaw puzzle (our daughter’s favorite, but we like to watch)
- Take a bubble bath with champagne, candles and music
- Have a phone-free day
- Meditate together
- Try a new recipe out as a surprise for the other
- Do a virtual exercise class together
- Do a virtual class together like a new language or learning an instrument
- Watch a great movie
- Clean the house. (Okay, we never thought this would be on the list, but now that we are spending more time in the house together, it has become more important to get it really clean and most importantly, organized. We have spent a lot of time cleaning out each cupboard, drawer, closet, etc. The more we clean, the better we feel and the more fun it is just to be inside!)
The list goes on and on. It’s only as limited as your creativity and imagination. If you find your partner’s idea of fun is different than your idea of having fun, then both of you choose one or two things from your partner’s list that you would love doing. There may also be something that may not be your first choice, but do it anyway to make your partner smile.
As crazy as it may sound, there’s plenty of room for fun, lightness and play even in the midst of a crisis—and we believe it may be one of the more important times to bring these ingredients into your relationship. Why? Having fun increases our immune system by lowering cortisol and increasing dopamine and serotonin. So, incorporating more fun into your lives not only builds more love and connection, but it increases your chances of staying healthy and getting through this most crazy time in which we are living. By developing a habit of having fun now, we are building a way of creating more loving connection way beyond the time of this virus.
Stay healthy… and have fun!