I know many people might see the title of this newly released book “The Fun Habit’, How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life, and either laugh or snicker at the title. We might think “I need a book by a PhD to tell me how to have fun?”. I would ask you to pause for a moment and keep the word ‘habit’ in the title front and center. As an Integrative Health Coach I know how important ‘joy’ is to our health and well-being, but often my clients don’t see how important it is until they connect the dots. Having fun is sometimes equated with drinking and eating decadent food, charging up our credit cards for an expensive vacation, or even shopping in general. We work hard, we play hard and fun better be good! But then we come back to our life and we are right back in the thick of it. The vacation has worn off and the stress of everyday life is cranking up again. There has got to be a better way right? You’ve heard that expression ‘A good life is a life you don’t have to escape from.”. This is where the book ‘The Fun Habit’ comes in and will be very helpful. And by the way, a health coach like myself can help you integrate these good habits into your wellness lifestyle too!
The author and PhD Mike Rucker does an excellent job of helping us discover and define fun, so we each can make it meaningful in our own personal lives. As lighthearted as the title might sound, this book is delving into an area of ‘self care’ and ‘healthcare’ that has been very undervalued. We need fun and joy in our lives because it nourishes the other areas of our health ( like our immune system) so we can thrive, flourish and be productive. There is a whole chapter in the book ‘Bring Your Fun Habit to Work’ and this also isn’t what you think it is. You have to read the book, and I promise you, you will look at ‘fun’ differently but also as a necessity for your health and well-being. Let’s hear more from Mike in the Q&A and I wish you a joyful and fun 2023!
Laura Connolly, CHC, Healthy Longevity Coach
Founder of World Wise Beauty
Lauroly Q- So much to chat about regarding your enlightening book and research. I’m going to try and glean some of the big ideas! Your first chapter in the book ‘The Fun Habit’ is titled ‘Fun is the Antidote’. I’d like to start by sharing a quote from your book…
“Fun improves respiration and circulation, lowers your pulse and blood pressure, and helps release endorphins into the bloodstream. Fun is one of the keys to vitality as we age.”
Amen to that, Mike! That’s a pretty powerful statement, but I am a believer, and know the science has been building on the importance of a healthy emotional state and spirit in relation to all our other health systems. With that said, how is fun and toxic positivity different? How is indulging in hedonic ‘pleasures’ different from developing healthy fun ‘habits’?
Hedonic tone has nothing to do with ethics; it is essentially a way to identify if we are drawn to something and find it pleasurable (or not). It’s how we define the affective quality of experience. What has happened, especially here in the United States, is that many of us have undervalued the importance of living a joyful life. From entrenched social norms like the old Puritan work ethic, to modern advances like the smartphone that keeps us always ‘on,’ it’s clear we are becoming fun starved. The irony is that when we do become fun-starved, we become less productive, often ultimately leading to burnout.
Conversely, you have the “good vibes only” memes, a hallmark of toxic positivity, suggesting that there is something wrong with feeling a breadth of emotions. We now understand that good emotional flexibility—the ability to be more comfortable with whatever emotion we’re feeling—is important to mental health. That’s why knowing fun is accessible and available through deliberate design is distinct from chasing happiness. Fun is a bias toward action, where we’ve turned happiness into an exercise of evaluation (which takes us out of the moment, and wastes energy that we could be using to actually truly enjoy life).
Lauroly Q- Another important takeaway from the book is this, you state “Unlike happiness, fun isn’t a reaction to your circumstances, it’s an action orientation, one you can control and enact anytime or anywhere. I like Taylor Swift’s big hit ‘Shake it Off’ because I find dancing around to a little music you love is something you can do on a good day, or a bad day, and you always feel better than when you started! Dancing works for me. I love how you share so many great stories of real people elevating fun in their lives. Can you share more on the concept of deliberate fun? Deliberate fun is not the same as forced right?
Important to note, that doesn’t mean fun shouldn’t be shared. Co-creating fun with loved ones and friends is one of the best ways to have fun (i.e., the connection is still unique, but shared). That’s because although fun is autonomous, it is also inclusive. It’s not reliant on the “you can’t pour from an empty cup” and “put your mask on first” attitude that many who focus on happiness convey. Instead, fun often transports you outside yourself. It helps us understand we fit into something bigger, which can often help us realize our problems are smaller than we originally thought (because we have become less self-absorbed).
Lauroly Q- While fun is the antidote, I highly respect how you made a real point to share difficult personal stories about pain, loss, and life’s inevitable challenges we all face. You say, “the acceptance of our emotions (both negative and positive) is a predictor of good mental health.” Yet what also holds true, is what you say in the book…
“Fun can be a magical balm that makes life’s slings and arrows bearable.” ~Mike Rucker
As a psych major myself, I remember Carl Jung said, “Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine”. On the other end of the spectrum sometimes we can mistake fun for high arousal. Can you expand on this in terms of finding or creating fun that makes you feel alive in a healthy way? Some ‘fun’ can be destructive.
In other words, if our life is designed in a way where everything we do is depleting, it’s a direct path to burnout, and we look for quick, ultimately unsatisfying ways to displace that discomfort. However, when we are invigorated by the things we do, because we enjoy doing them, we approach the world with vigor and vitality.
Lauroly Closing: There it is, Mike! You just told us why fun and engagement matters so much. That was a great answer. Your book ‘The Fun Habit’ How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life is so comprehensive, and we have only skimmed the surface here! I highly recommend people buy the book and learn more about your ‘Savor System’ which really unlocks the building blocks of developing fun as a habit. Some people would say “I know how to have fun for Pete’s sake!”. But as you lay out in the book the culture we are living in and the “all work, no play” attitude we have been swept up in doesn’t make it easy to have fun these days. Your book is sorely needed and so refreshing. Thank you for writing it and I’m honored to have you here at World Wise Beauty.
Mike Rucker Closing: It’s been my pleasure Laura! Thank you for allowing me to share the message of The Fun Habit with your audience. If anyone would like to connect further and/or learn more about the science of fun, I invited you to visit me at my website, https://michaelrucker.com.