Having fun should come naturally. Right?

You simply drive to the closest watering hole, grab a beer with a friend, and bam, you’re there! Except that I no longer drink … which was the only way I knew how to relax. Because liquor became a kind of babysitter for my brain, quieting all the rowdy children in my head so that I could sneak out for a soirée with some friends.

Although I’ve been sober for over 20 years, I still haven’t gotten the hang of chilling out … without any aids, that is.

Gerard Musante, Ph.D., writes in “The Structure House: Weight Loss Plan”:

When people ask me how often they can find something enjoyable to do during their leisure time, I often ask them to think about their childhood and the games they played or activities in which they participated. The chances are that similar activities will be fun for them to do in adulthood.

Whether you know it or not, you have undoubtedly experienced flow many times before. You certainly experienced it as a child, because all children routinely enter flow states when playing, exploring the world, and learning—until, unfortunately, they start to unlearn this ability during adolescence. Losing the ability to attain flow is common for many people by the time they reach adulthood. The question now is how to regain it.

Last summer, when I was going through a bout of depression, a friend told me to do what made me happy as a kid. So I tuned up my mountain bike and headed to the trails for a few hours. Afterward I treated myself to an ice-cream cone: mint-chocolate chip with LOTS of chocolate sprinkles on top. That was exactly how I spent so many summer days as kid.

My brain recalled it, because I could hear a voice say, “Oh yeah. I remember this. It was fun … before your dad put you on treadmill and a diet and you were afraid to eat ice-cream again.”

The next day I hung out at the pool with the kids. I decided to dare a friend of mine to swim one lap of the pool without taking a breath … we would race and the loser had to do anything the winner wanted. I was always coming up with races and competitions like that as a kid, and I wanted to see if, perhaps, my brain would remember and go back, even for a few minutes, to that happy place in my childhood.

Another success! Except that I lost the challenge because my opponent swam one and half laps without a breath.

In “Finding the Deep River Within,” Abby Seixas starts her chapter, “Do Something You Love,” with a wonderful quote by Coleman Barks, a renowned translator of Rumi’s poetry. Writes Barks:

Whatever is deeply loved—friends, grandchild, late afternoon light, masonry, tennis, whatever absorbs you—this may be a reflection of how you move in the invisible world of spirit. It is your beauty, the elegant point where everything is one.

I love that. Because I think it’s true. Without play, we risk losing our very selves. If I invest all of my time toward my obligations—in a desperate pursuit to check off every single item on my to-do list–I might forget how to do anything with joy. Moreover, without a chance to rejuvenate and unwind, my inner well–the life force within in–could dry up for, oh, a very long time.

I agree with Abby when she says, “There is a connection between doing a loved activity and our very being.…Making time to do something you love is a way of honoring and expressing who you are while you are still alive.”

And with those words, I’m off to get more mint-chocolate chip ice-cream!

 


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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Apr 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Borchard, T. (2009). Relax, Unwind, and Go Back in Time: It’ll Do You Some Good. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/04/19/relax-unwind-and-go-back-in-time-it%e2%80%99ll-do-you-some-good/

 

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