Fun might seem like the exact opposite of work, but science is crystal clear: joy and playfulness actually help you be not just happier personally, but more successful professionally as well.
Play makes us mentally tougher by helping us reduce stress and see old challenges in a new light. Research has linked play with less fatigue and burnout among employees and more engagement and creativity. Being playful with others helps us negotiate conflict and build empathy, while laughter boosts EQ and accelerates learning (which might be why Einstein advised his son that the way to learn faster is to have more fun). Science shows funny bosses are more motivating. And last but not least, one large Norwegian study even found people with a good sense of humor live an average of eight years longer than the poker-faced.
In short, fun isn’t just a pleasant distraction from the serious business of living. Play helps us achieve more and be happier while doing it. But in our stressful, uncertain world, where temperatures and prices are soaring and a recession seems to be looming, holding on to a sense of playfulness can be hard. How can entrepreneurs keep on top of all the serious responsibilities of adulthood while still making room for fun in their lives?
Anyone can develop the “fun mindset.”
That’s the topic of a fascinating excerpt from the new book, The Power of Fun, featured on the TED Ideas blog recently. In it, author Catherine Price argues that it’s actually possible to become the kind of person who attracts fun, even if up to now you’ve thought of yourself as shy, introverted, or more on the serious side.
When Price asked people what made someone fun for her book, the most popular answers were things like spontaneity, a willingness to be vulnerable, and a appreciation of small joys that can be cultivated by any personality type. “The primary thing that separates people who attract fun from their peers is their attitude,” Price insists before offering several tips to help you cultivate a “fun mindset.”
1. Be easy to laugh.
Price quotes ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to explain what she means by this suggestion: “The easiest way to have more humor … is not to try to be funny; instead, just look for moments to laugh.” Laughing more is a benefit unto itself, but Price also points out that “the easier you are to laugh (and the more things you can find to laugh about) the more attractive you’ll be, both to other people and to fun.”
2. Say “yes, and…”
You may have heard of this tip already in the context of improv comedy or creativity training, but Price claims the simple technique will make you more of a fun magnet too. All it amounts to is greeting new ideas with positivity and new ideas of your own.
“You don’t need to be an improv comedian to practice the art of ‘yes, and’ (believe me). Instead, you can use its underlying philosophy — deliberately choosing not to shoot down ideas, but instead to affirm and build on them — as a way to strengthen your fun mindset by opening yourself to spontaneity, making other people feel included, and becoming more adaptive (and, for that matter, less of a wet blanket),” she writes.
3. Send out play signals.
You know how a dog, when it wants to play, will raise its butt and wag its tail? Price insists we should all master the human equivalent of that canine pose.
“An example of a play signal in humans would be brief eye contact combined with a smile or a comment that invites conversation. Even a playfully sarcastic line can work, such as ‘Nice weather we’re having’ when you’re in the midst of a snowstorm,” she explains. “Making a point to look up from your phone and send play signals is a wonderful way to invite more playful interactions — and ultimately, more fun — into your life.”