Ep 225: The Hidden Benefits of Joy and Fun

We’re sitting down with Catherine Price, author of The Power of Fun, to talk about the overlooked benefits of having fun! Catherine defines the true meaning of fun, explains why we tend to undervalue it, and gives practical tips for how to bring more fun to ourselves and our families.

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Full show notes

Do you remember the last time you had fun? Maybe you were exploring a new place, playing a video game or even just laughing with your friends. What did it feel like? Did it help you relieve stress and add joy to your day?

We often consider fun irrelevant, or view it as a waste of time, but it can be an essential part of survival. Having fun is not only good for our mood, but actually improves our physical health, lowering our cortisol and helping us balance our hormones.

Teaching kids the importance of fun can help them live happier, healthier lives as they head into adulthood.

To understand how we can pass the value of fun onto our kids, we’re talking to Catherine Price, author of The Power of Fun. Catherine is an award-winning science journalist and speaker whose work has been featured in Time Magazine, O Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and more. The New York Times even dubbed her the Marie Kondo of minds!

In our interview, we’re talking about the definition of true fun, why we often undervalue fun in our society, and what practical steps we can take to bring more fun to ourselves and our families.

How Fun Keeps Us Happy And Healthy

Fun is often misunderstood, explains Catherine. We tend to think of any relaxing or non-work activity as “fun” when in reality these activities don’t always meet the requirements. 

Catherine explains that fun consists of three core elements: Playfulness, connectivity and flow. Playfulness doesn't necessarily refer to childlike behavior, but simply requires us to do something for the sake of doing it without putting too much emphasis on the outcome. Connectivity refers to sharing an experience with another person, and flow means being so invested in whatever we’re doing that we lose track of time.

When we experience playfulness, connectivity and flow all at once, that means we’re experiencing true fun, says Catherine. This is different from what Catherine describes as “fake fun”, which often includes binge-watching TV shows or scrolling through social media apps. These activities are designed to keep us hooked by hijacking our dopamine reward systems, but don’t actually equate to true fun. Catherine dives deeper into the phenomenon of fake fun in the episode.

There is also some middle ground between fun and non-fun, she explains. Relaxing, solitary activities like going on a long walk, taking a bath or doing a puzzle are still essential to our wellbeing and should be prioritized, but they don’t meet the requirements for being true fun. Some activities include connectivity without flow, or playfulness without connectivity. Although these kinds of experiences aren’t true fun, they’re still beneficial and add value to our lives, Catherine explains.

In order to fit more true fun into our lives, however, we have to start realizing its value. Catherine and I discuss how fun is often considered a waste of time and how we can start prioritizing fun again.

Why Fun Is Undervalued

As teens get older, we typically start telling them it’s time to get more serious. We pressure them to look towards results–better SAT scores, college acceptances, athletic achievements–and stop encouraging them to simply have fun and explore. While teens need to work towards becoming independent, they’ve also got to remember to keep fun as a part of their lives, Catherine says.

Catherine explains that we often forget to value fun because it doesn’t necessarily equate to making money. She breaks down a timeline for when fun stopped being valued in society, around the time of the industrial revolution. Before this period, professions were valued for their ability to reach an outcome–a cobbler made shoes, a butcher prepared meat, and a blacksmith forged metal.

But when our modern industrial systems were established, people stopped creating an outcome on their own, and became cogs in a machine to contribute to an outcome along a line of production. Today, this same pattern emerges, and it means that we don’t have a clear endpoint to stop working and start having fun. There’s endless work to do, and if we’re having fun instead of doing it, society tells us to feel guilty, says Catherine.

To combat this, Catherine prompts us to start adding fun to our lives and encouraging our family to do the same. In the episode, we're discussing practical ways to bring more fun to your home.

Bringing Fun Back To Your Family

We all have natural inclinations about how to have fun, but it can also help to take a practical approach, Catherine says. She suggests that we have our teens complete a “fun audit” in which they evaluate and make note of the things in their life that bring the most fun. Catherine calls these forces “fun-magnets”, and they could be a person, place, or thing. Maybe your teen’s most powerful fun-magnet is the basketball court, or perhaps it’s their lifelong best friend.

Many people think these fun-magnets need to be expensive or outside of daily life. In reality, they can be a part of our day-to-day routine, and can even be incorporated into traditionally “un-fun” environments like work, Catheirne explains. 

Sometimes, your fun magnets might not align with those of your partner or kids, and that can be challenging, Catherine says. In our interview, she explains how she and her husband enjoy very different things, and can’t always compromise when it comes to having fun! This doesn't mean you have to give up your fun-magnets, however, and Catherine and I discuss how to preserve your own version of fun even when someone disagrees or can’t relate.

Although family might not agree on every activity, there’s likely some common ground between everyone. Finding experiences that are fun for everyone and doing them together can be a great way to add joy to our lives, as well as create connections with our kids.

In the Episode…

There’s plenty of great insights in today’s talk with Catherine! On top of the topics discussed above, we also talk about:
  • Why parents should be cautious about video games
  • How we can grow our appreciation for everyday things
  • Why introverts can be just as fun as extroverts
  • How we can put down our phones and be more present
Thanks for listening! If you want to find more from Catherine, you can find more from her on her website, Catherineprice.com. Don’t forget to share and subscribe, and we’ll see you next week!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Catherine Price
Catherine Price
I help people scroll less & live more. #T1D & founder of @ScreenLifeBlnce / https://t.co/7jzc7qhjxE. Author of The Power of Fun & How to Break Up With Your Phone.
Ep 225: The Hidden Benefits of Joy and Fun
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