Holiday season can bring ‘True Fun’
Last updated 12/22/2021 at Noon
The holidays involve a lot of logistics even in the most normal of times. Preparing for hopefully-fun moments around a glimmering Christmas tree or a well-laid table can be quite demanding. Schedules may be packed with choir rehearsals, shopping, church services, and volunteering.
These days, there are added stresses. Pandemic conditions, vaccine statuses, and political leanings may perturb gatherings. Some folks are unaccustomed to gathering indoors anymore, or feel socially awkward due to pandemic isolation.
The holidays can provoke deeper grief for those missing a loved one. Many people are traumatized by having lost friends or family to COVID-19, or by providing emotional support to those in their communities who have suffered such losses. Others have not been strongly affected.
Skipping last year’s usual festivities shone a light on unhealthy dynamics within some families. Their celebrations may look different this year. Some family members might be clamoring for old traditions while others welcome a new outlook. The changes can be
Given all that, is there anything people can do to have a little more fun over the holidays? Catherine Price says yes. Price is the author of “The Power of Fun,” coming out this week on Dial Press.
“First, put some thought into what ‘fun’ actually means,” she advised. “We often use the word to describe anything we do in our leisure time, but there’s a very big difference between what I call True Fun, which makes us feel joyfully alive, and Fake Fun, which results in the numbed, deadened feeling we get from passively consuming content, often on our screens.”
Price, who also wrote the book “How to Break Up with Your Phone,” has studied fun in the context of what feels good, and how our brains and nervous systems operate. True Fun comes with a confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow, as described in “The Power of Fun.” It puts you in the moment, really connecting with people and activities.
Fake Fun occurs when we engage in activities that sort of make us feel better, but don’t connect us or lighten our hearts. Some of these even make us feel worse after a while, or keep us from connecting with our loved ones. Playing a game on your phone while friends wait for you in the living room nearby is one example.
Price outlined ways people can get more True Fun into their holidays—for themselves, friends, and families.
“One of the biggest impediments to True Fun is distraction,” she said. “When you’re distracted, you’re not fully present. If we want to increase our chances of having fun with other people, we need to put away distractions when we’re together. That, in turn, means that we need to put away our phones.”
She said people use phones as “security blankets” to soothe social anxiety.
“To make this separation easier, consider warning your guests ahead of time that you will be asking everyone to put away their own devices,” she said, “and then set out a basket near your door.”
Put your own phone in the basket first.
Consider helping folks connect in real life by providing interesting questions to answer—something besides politics and pandemics. Price offered three prompts: If you could relive any one year of your life, which would it be? What was your go-to outfit when you were a teenager? And: Describe an experience that stands out in your mind as having been
“I personally like to put one at each person’s place at the table and have people answer them as the meal is served,” she said. It might seem a bit forced, but Price has found that this simple game can take conversations in surprising directions.
“Different generations begin to connect in new ways,” she said.
Price also recommended giving guests a hands-on activity to do, besides lifting a glass of alcohol to their lips. Consider leaving out materials for a craft project, creating a cookie-decorating station, or putting out puzzles and board games.
“These props for fun, as I call them, can be surprisingly effective,” she said. The props help people of all ages let down their guard and “enter a state of playful, connected flow.”
Price and her work are featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, BBC, NPR, CBS, and others, and online at screenlifebalance.com and howtohavefun.com.
Those planning to spend the holidays alone have other difficulties this time of year. See “More Fun, Less Phone” below for advice from Price, along with resources for those struggling with screen and device overuse.