I Started a Fun Log and Here are the Results
Why Keep Another Journal?
I can only give my personal reasons. After I hit a particular rocky bottom – with work, my emotions and generally taking on too much – my health suffered (unsurprisingly). Perhaps from desperation, the realization dawned that play was as important to modern survival as earning an income and keeping all the impossible strings of life together. Like many others, I was doing the 'adult' thing of working hard and being responsible. At the cost of my emotional health. Stress heaped up and manifested in several painful physical conditions and anxiety. For me, personally, a gratitude journal could only do so much. A fun log was more diverse, could be mentally or physically relaxing (depending on one's current needs), be as intense or as light as desired and had near-instant results.
I decided to keep another journal but you can incorporate it into your bullet journal or diary, if you have them. Please note that this is my personal experience and should not take the place of medical treatment of serious conditions or be used as an excuse to throw caution to the winds and abuse vices.
What to Focus on
That is a deeply personal choice but let's hinge it on a golden rule. Make that a double-plated golden rule. Whatever activity you choose, it must not be harmful to you (drugs, excessive drinking, bungee jumping with a frayed rope...) or to others.
From experience, I eventually realized an unusual thing. The big things such as theme park rides and partying are certainly fun things to do – but they do not relax anyone. Inherently, they excite and excitement is not true relaxation. Adrenaline-fueled events or hectic social situations may be super distracting and fun while they last but face it, they leave one exhausted at the end of the day.
Through trial and error, I learned what worked for me was to practice things that brought satiety. This was hard to learn. Like most, I grew up with the instant-culture. Everything had to happen now, including kicking stress to the curb. You probably know by now that stress is a sticky bug. There is nothing instant about getting rid of it. But eventually, what weakened its hold on me were things that brought satiety. What were they? The small things.
Let's start at the beginning. Every person who decides to keep a fun log or journal will end up with a unique collection of stuff they like to do. Grab a book, open a computer file and slap your title on it. Decorate it, if you will. If the journal is a physical book, leave the first few pages open to allow space for a list of things that have worked for you in the past. Why? Heck, we're busy parents, workers, entrepreneurs and caregivers. Nobody has time to remember everything that once brought them true relaxation. Keeping a list allows you to run your finger down the entries and picking one, easily and face it, it's an indulgent feeling, knowing that you are shopping for your own brand of fun. This list will always be fluid, ever evolving. What worked two years or two weeks ago, might not work again. But eventually, you will have several solid items ready to make you feel better after a hard day.
Simplicity is Powerful
Why Keeping it Simple is Best
Again, if plunging down the latest miles-long roller coaster truly provides you with Zen, then go for it. However, real recovery comes from satiety and no drug, sex with a stranger or extreme sport can mend the edges that modern life frays so much. While sport and theme parks do relax, they relax in the way of distraction. They don't bring balance because distraction fails to untie the emotional and physical knots in our bodies. This was the hardest but most valuable lesson my fun log taught me. Quick fixes gloss over the damage and then disappear just as quickly. Soon, one looks to repeat the experience – ergo, a lack of satiety.
Desperate, I decided to focus on smaller things that can be done at home. Things that cost little or were entirely free. Being able to do something relaxing at any time without special or expensive preparations is already a great stress-buster. Financial worries rate highly among most people's troubles, so spending more than one can really afford, just to unwind, defeats the purpose.
But here is the bottom line – choose activities that bring satiety without the guilt. That one glass of wine slowly being sipped in a quiet room or with your partner. Write. Be creative with art. Read. Take care of your body, spoil it. A delicious snack. Watching that movie. Give yourself permission to just vegetate for an hour (the world won't fall apart, trust me). Nap. Listen to music. These are all very generic examples and with reason. They work but every person must add their own joys. I personally love to write, watch comedy movies with my mother and to vegetate - but they may not refresh you. Maybe you feel spanking new after planting a row of spinach in your garden. Fantastic. Gardening is a healthy physical activity with the added benefit of making one's environment beautiful and self-sustaining. In the end, finding your fun collection is a trial-and-error adventure. Try everything you fancy, within harmless bounds, and update the main list when you discover a refreshing activity.
It Wasn't Always Easy
This was another surprising conclusion. When I started my fun experiment, I thought the idea of daily fun sounded easy. It wasn't like I was being forced to write an exam every day. Without fail, life got in the way, responsibilities too – I could hardly ignore work, family and pets as their needs arose. Sometimes, I felt too guilty to spend 'selfish time' on myself and this remains something I'm still learning to overcome.
It's getting easier. Here's another great fact this experiment taught me. When I'm refreshed, relaxed and feel like I don't sacrifice everything for everybody (not even a saint cannot get irritated), I become a better caregiver and pet owner. My focus sharpened and my work projects no longer seemed so overwhelming. Even if I picked something off my list once every few days, the benefits still came – knee-jerk reactions to bad situations happened less, I slept better and started looking forward to my day when I woke up. My first thought wouldn't be, “Oh no, I have to do this and that today, I'm really not in the mood.” Strangely, even though there were things I didn't want to do, my first thoughts focused happily on the fun moments that would undoubtedly be in my day. It made the tough stuff more bearable because I had something to look forward to.
Don't Forget Those Dreams
Do What Works for You
- A fun log can take on many shapes. For some it is just a list. Others like to journal their moments, which is also a good way to relax.
- Throw away what doesn't serve you and keep the things leaving you refreshed, not just excited.
- Don't forget that new things can also be the spice of life. Dare to try something you always wanted to do but never had the chance. Even if it is just a small, solid step. To take the steps, at last, to realize long-nourished dreams is also a way to achieve satiety in oneself.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit