Jun 06

Have Fun, For Fun’s Sake!

[This relatively sensible post was originally written for puttylike.com]

I often feel pressure, like questions are burnt into my brain by endless repetition:

Am I contributing to the world right now?

Am I making enough money?

Am I deepening myself, learning new skills and growing as a person?

You might think that achieving any of these goals would be sufficient, but sometimes even when I manage one of them feels like it’s not enough. While I’m learning something valuable, I still feel pressure that I’m not contributing, or earning, or… or… or…

Part of me sometimes feels like I need to be contributing to the world, earning money and bettering myself, all at once.

This makes relaxation a little tricky, to put it mildly.

Must We Do Anything?

Each of the pressure questions contains an implied should. And each of these shoulds is important. Of course we all want to make an impact on the world, to be financially successful, and to grow. But a life spent purely in service of should is draining.

It’s also important to give ourselves permission – at least sometimes – to simply have fun.

The prevailing culture looks down on fun. We’re made to feel like productivity is the most important goal, which all other goals must be subservient to. BOW TO THE GODS OF PRODUCTIVITY, O MEASLY HUMANS.

But productivity and self-care/happiness/fun (however we want to think about it) are equally important.

(Arguably, if it’s a happy life we’re after, fun is even more important than productivity. As Alan Watts points out, if we work to earn money just to finance our lives so we can go to work… what’s the point?!)

To counterbalance valuing productivity above all else, here are some ways to give ourselves permission to have fun. Fun for no reason. Fun for it’s own sake.

NOTE: This isn’t so we can re-energize ourselves in order to be more productive. That kind of thinking is part of the problem: it still makes productivity the highest goal! We don’t want to put fun in service of productivity. For a moment, I want to allow fun to be the Highest Good.

Learn for No Reason

Do you have an interest that you never let yourself play with because you “can’t justify” it? Ever say to yourself, “learning to sew would be fun… but it won’t help me,” or “dance classes won’t make me better at my job”? Or anything like that?

Take the pressure off, and stop justifying every use of your time in productive terms. Give yourself an hour. Learn something for no reason at all. It’s alright!

Create Without Purpose

There’s something beautiful about monks creating mandalas – amazing artistic works made in sand – only to destroy them afterwards. The mandalas serve as a reminder that nothing is permanent. I like that the monks decouple the act of creation from any need to be anything in particular.

In a similar vein, you could:

  • Write without worrying if anyone will like what you’re writing.
  • Paint without wondering if anyone might pay for your painting.
  • Create without fearing that anyone might even see your creation.

It’s freeing, healing, and inspiring to create without purpose (and if you accidentally create something amazing to share with the world, that’s a fantastic bonus).

Rest Without Guilt

I’m sure we all know this, but guilty rest isn’t restful.

It can be hard to truly switch ourselves off, especially if we’re in the habit of living with constant internal pressure: that litany of shoulds in our heads.

Of course, rest can be difficult for external reasons too – juggling work, family, and routine. But whatever your circumstances, you can surely find at least a few minutes (or hours, or even days) to allow yourself to rest.

However long it is, try marking that time out in your schedule, vow to ignore any internal pressure, turn your phone off, and have a little guilt-free rest.

I’ve noticed just how resistant I am to this idea, even though I know it’s good for me. Sometimes we have to get over our resistance in order to live more healthily.

Free Yourself from “Should”

If we’re in the habit of shoulding ourselves, it feels unnatural to stop justifying everything we do. But there’s no justification needed. There’s no must. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just play.

Status update

“Work is accomplishment without creativity or nourishment”

May 17

You Can’t Not Do Things, You Can Only Do Them

[Another quick post today.]

Sometimes it seems as if the solution to a problem is to NOT do something.

For example, if our problem is “I can’t stop thinking about this person” it might seem that we simply have to stop thinking about them.

Obvious, right?

No. Actually, that’s impossible.

Read more…

May 03

Do More Things You Enjoy


Today, some Incredibly Obvious Advice Which I Always Forget.

You know those things you enjoy doing?

(Perhaps you don’t. For me, modern life often turns into a kind of repetitive drudgery where days blend into one another. Even so, there’s usually something at some point lately which brought some joy. It’s useful to notice “what’s been fun, joyful, enjoyable, good lately” every now and then.)

Here’s my suggestion: try and do more of those things you like.

Lately, I noticed that there were a few simple activities I had really enjoyed – meeting new people, live music, turning off social media – and I thought “I should probably do that more often”.

And instead of ignoring that thought and just carrying on with my standard routines, I’m making an effort to consciously include more of those things in my life.

Even if the net result is a single extra coffee, or conversation with a friend, or one piece of music I wouldn’t otherwise have listened to… even just one extra thing I enjoy means my life is slightly happier as a result.

In case you want to use this Incredibly Obvious Process, it’s this:

  1. Recognise things you like
  2. Do more of them
  3. That’s it.

Good luck! And let me know if you do anything good as a result of reading this post – I’d love to hear it 🙂

Mar 31

Do You Plan, Ruminate, Worry, Poke, Prod, and Fumble? How to Stop Overanalysing Your Life

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

I’ve been planning to write this post for approximately seven years.

Every possible paragraph has been carefully researched. Each of my thoughts has been studied intensely by a number of focus groups so that they are perfectly formed.

(In fact, the focus groups were themselves chosen by focus groups, although it took me several months of careful focus-grouping to realise that that was the correct strategy.)

As such, I am confident that this post is the very best it could possibly be, except-


Read more…

Mar 25

How to Write a Great Non-Fiction Book, Probably

diary writing by freddie boy, on Flickr; how to write a book

Original Photo © Fredrik Rubensson, froderik on Flickr.
CC BY-SA 2.0

Instead of my usual musing about anxiety & brains & life & things, today I’m going to answer some questions I got sent about how to write a book.

Specifically, my correspondent wanted to know how to write a great non-fiction book.

Before you say it… god knows why they came to me.

I certainly don’t claim to be a world expert in writing non-fiction. At best, I’m probably the world’s foremost humorously custard-based mental health writer.

Even so, my comedy book about anxiety has been surprisingly successful, so perhaps something in my experience might be useful to somebody.

As I started replying to the email, I realised this might benefit from being more widely shared. So here we are.

How to Write a Book, A Bit:

Read more…

Mar 18

Sort of Fake It till you Sort of Make It

[post status: a quick & messy throwaway thought]

It’s a two-way street between our feelings and our actions. Sometimes we perform well because we’re confident, but acting confident also helps our performance.

Hence the popular advice: “Fake it till you make it!”

Read more…

Feb 27

Do You Feel the Need to Be Impressive?

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

Hi, my name’s Neil Hughes and, because I’m human, I want you to be impressed by me.

This is a normal urge. We are social animals, so it’s natural to be concerned about our status within the tribe.

Our brains: Am I important? What do people think when they meet me?

As ever, there’s both a healthy mindset and an unhealthy mindset about our own impressiveness. Here’s an example of each:

Read more…

Feb 17

Jiggling an Imaginary Rope Helps You Re-Evaluate Your Life

[Warning: contains mild physics.]

Imagine a short piece of rope. We’ll call him Ropert.

Let’s imagine that Ropert represents our lives.

Read more…

Feb 01

Why You’re So Confused About What You Want

[This post was originally written for puttylike.com]

There’s lots of advice out there on how to achieve your dreams.

But what if I don’t know what my dream even is?! How on earth do I move on when I have difficulty realising what I even want?

Read more…

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