I bet you think I’m going to say that fishing is the secret to great health, because of this picture. And while fish can be a nutritional positive to great health, it is not necessarily the secret.
I grew up fishing on a tiny lake in Wisconsin during summer vacations. I won a fishing contest once, at about 10 years old, by catching the largest Crappie with just a single pole, a string, a worm and a red and white bobber. I was in a rowboat with my cousin.
It was very exciting to watch the bobber disappear below the surface and begin to pull me toward the side of the boat. I had to lure the 15-inch fish in, hand over hand, being careful not to break the string by force, but pull fast when the string gained slack. It took about 15 minutes, which seemed a lot longer; but soon the winning fish was at my feet.
The judge measured it and documented my success with an old-fashioned flashbulb camera, and I let it go.
I go back to that experience from time to time, and, while I love to win, as time has marched on and I reflect, I realize that it wasn’t the winning at all that made me happy. I don’t even know what came of the fishing pole. I think I gave it to my cousin.
What really kept a place in my heart over the long run was the remembering of the experience. The excitement when I felt a nibble, then a tug, then a full-on pull. The concentration as I pulled the string; slowly, quickly, slowly, until the fish was in the rowboat. The amazement at the size of it. The fascination with the difference in how the creatures of the world are created, exist and thrive. A newfound love of water and water life, and, and, and.
What I’m trying to tell you is…
I did it because it was fun.
This is the missing ingredient in many people’s lives, yet it can be your go-to source for greater health.
Let me explain.
There has been a myriad of studies about fun and good health. One, in particular, stands out to me.
A group of researchers in Sweden followed 112 teenage girls who were having issues with anxiety, depression, back pain, neck pain and overall stress. 56 of the girls took dance lessons, which gave them a chance to move their bodies, express themselves and have fun. The other half didn’t. Can you guess what happened? The girls who danced were happier: no depression or anxiety. No pain. This effect lasted for almost a year.
Think about it. When you are having fun, which can include movement, laughter, trying a new activity, learning a new skill, having a meaningful conversation with a friend, or even just being silly by yourself, you experience a positive emotional rise. Dopamine, endorphins, and more are released. The chemicals in our body that make us feel good.
And when we feel good, we feel good. Which means the pain subsides, the aches seem less, the negative effects of chronic conditions are muted.
My own mom was not feeling well for nine years before she passed away. Persistent pain, sleeping hours on end, canceling anything that required her to be gone for more than an hour from her home. She had hip issues, a brain tumor that she never knew about (we found out when ICU ordered an MRI of her brain) and a constant feeling of foreboding. It was hard to see her this way.
Yet, every time I came to see her, especially when I brought one or more of my children and/or my puppy, she lit up. She didn’t want us to go. We had fun together just talking and telling stories, cooking and sharing a meal – my puppy snuggling next to her. My mom wanted to visit for hours on end. When I called her after each visit, she didn’t complain about her chronic conditions. Never. Not once. She told me she was feeling better.
I believe that the fun she had with my puppy and kids made her happy. And happiness is the best cure for anything.
And the best way to get happy is to inject some fun into your life.
What can you do today that is fun?
How about riding a bike?
Here is another photo of me, that is quite opposite from the fishing one. A photo where again, I was simply having fun. I have to tell you that every time I look at it, I crack myself up. You may think it looks ridiculous, but I just laugh—out loud, every time I see it. Mostly because I never do this. But it was on a trip with friends, so I just did. We all laughed.
I am sharing it with you because maybe it will give a few of you a laugh too.
So go put some fun on your calendar. A concert, a sailing lesson, a hike, a luncheon, a photo shoot. Or just be spontaneous.
Laugh. Connect. Enjoy.
Watch your health improve and feel it last for many memories to come.
Jody B. Miller
CEO | Keynote | TEDx | Work Happiness Expert