Have you ever noticed someone that has that one thing…It’s a sparkle in their eye. It’s this indescribable energy. It’s this way about them. They have that one thing.

And you wish you had it too.

But realistically, you know it’s just not inside of you.

You wish you were that excited about life. You wish you could be swept away by the moment. But that’s just not how you operate.

My challenge for you…maybe, just maybe, you’re wrong.

Maybe that thing is like a candle inside of you. Your flame went out years ago. When you were a child and someone shushed you. When your teacher in middleschool said you would never amount to anything. When you were made fun of by your peers in high school. When you were so good at your job that you started taking too seriously so you could climb the corporate ladder. When you climbed the ladder and realized that you were still unhappy. When you went through losing a loved one. When you had to deal with parenting mean teens…

Fill in the blank. My flame went out when____________________________.

Life has a crazy way of putting out that one thing. It has a way of beating us down.

But I’ve learned something from the people who have that one thing.

They have learned how to cultivate that thing. They go out of their ways to promote fun, happiness, and achievement in life. These are actually key elements to fighting depression. People who have that one thing actively add people, activities, and experiences that cultivate a sense of content and joy.

Let’s talk more about cultivating that thing…

Feel like you weren’t able to be a real kid? So many people go through harsh circumstances, or become high achievers, or have harsh parents….the list of types of life circumstances that can cause people to lose that thing can go on and on. Often, people who go through this stop having fun at very early ages.

But look at those people with the one thing. They know how to have fun! They seek it out. A sense of fun or content or joy instantly turns on when they’re in the room. This doesn’t neccessarily mean that they’re the life of the party. It just means that they seem to be content/happy in whatever circumstance.

I’ve learned that this can be cultivated. Yes, even you can start to experience fun/joy/content wherever you are. And, it doesn’t take consumption of unhealthy things. So, forget the alcohol or drugs or sex for a second. Focus on healthy ways of reaching this.

Tips for reaching happy/fun/content feelings:

Be curious. Develop a sense of curiosity about others, the world, life. Ask questions in wonder. I wonder why dogs walk on leashes but cats don’t. I wonder why collars were invented for shirts. Approach the world in wonder.

Play. Wherever you are look for appropriate ways you can play. If you’re not good at this, just observe what young people do. If a kid goes to the beach, he makes sand castles and swims. He doesn’t really worry about getting a tan, or looking good in his swimsuit. He thinks about laughter, and fun, and adventure. If he goes to the store and has to wait in line, he swings his arms around in efforts to imagine he’s flying through the sky. Okay, maybe don’t pretend you’re flying in public if people will be disturbed by it, but you get the idea. Find ways to engage your mind in joyful play, wherever you are.

Make friends who have that one thing. Observe them. And try to emulate that. I have a friend who knows how to look for play wherever she is. That’s how I started trying the skill in #2. I noticed she did it. I’ve implemented it in my own life, and it’s been a life changer. And, because I’m wanting to have fun, I usually end up inviting people to enjoy things with me. Maybe I play a game of darts, or sing at the top of my lungs, or go check out a new art exhibit, or decide to go on a city-wide scavenger hunt. Whatever it is, I can invite friends. And then, we all can have fun. So now, some people think that I have that thing. They may not realize it takes work on my part, but this is the goal! I want that thing. I want to have a light in my eyes, have fun wherever I am, have energy that is contagious.

Decide not to take life so seriously. This is a tough one for you high achievers and those who have been deeply hurt by others, but it’s an important one. We benefit from learning that most of the time people are not that concerned with us and how we look or act or are. We don’t always have to look like we have it all together. We can be human. We can be silly, or clumsy, or imperfect. It’s okay if we’re different. Think about it. Most of us know at least one person who makes it in life and doesn’t have it all together. They don’t worry too much about what others think. They are genuine. They are who they are. And yet, they’re okay. In fact, they have that one thing. We wish we could be like them, and they make it look easy, but fear tells us it’s not. Overcome that fear! Release your perfectionism. Decide that life isn’t that serious. I get there are times that you may feel the need to impress people, but we don’t have to impress people all of the time.

Actively seek laughter. Watch funny videos. Hang out with funny people. Laugh at silly things you do. And when you do laugh, really let it out. Don’t stifle your laugh. Just laugh. Let that belly laugh come out.

Realize that many feelings can exist at once. If you’re sad, you can also be happy and have fun. You don’t have to be just sad or just happy. They can both live in your heart at the same time. And, you can choose to cultivate the happy. You can choose to promote fun in your life despite the fact that the sad is still there.

Avoid judment. When we judge others and ourselves it’s not helpful. It doesn’t cultivate contentment. We end up having negative feelings towards the person we’re judging (including ourselves.) We set unrealistic expectations and then feel disappointed that the world doesn’t measure up to them. Release your judgment. This is different than  using wisdom, so I’m not saying you need to abandon rational wisdom that tells you to protect yourself or others. But, do we really need to judge what that woman is wearing, how weak that guy is, how bad of a mother she is because she packs sugar snacks for her kid, the fact that that guy can’t spell well…no we don’t need to judge those things. Release your judgments.

Start doing. Think about activities that you can engage in that give you a sense of achieving. They can be big or small. Maybe you tackle that junk drawer, or maybe you finally take that training. Maybe you volunteer at your church. Or maybe you decide to workout 10 minutes per day. Whatever it is, allow yourself to begin feeling the sense of genuine accomplishment.

Engage in something that feels meaningful. Many situations in life can strip us of our sense of meaning and purpose. Dig deep, and decide to find meaning. This could mean taking small steps like holding the door open for a stranger, or volunteering your time, mentoring, or encouraging a family member.

Find support. If you’ve been through really tough times, and you know they’re impacting your ability to have fun, talk to someone about it. Find a counselor who specializes in trauma or grief. Work through it.

Wherever you are in life, and whatever you’re experiencing, know that hope exists. Dig deep, and find that hope. Think about how hopeful and carefree you were as a child or if childhood was difficult for you, think of how hopeful you could be if you nurtured this kind of life for yourself. While you can’t go back to being a kid, you can cultivate some of the wonder, curiosity, and joy that a kid experiences.

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