When practicing self-care in relation to a chronic disease like diabetes, it's easy to focus on tight glycemic control, food portions, exercise and getting enough rest. These pursuits and concerns are all well and good--and undeniably important--but do you also think about the benefits of having fun?
There's plenty of research out there that demonstrates how leisure, fun, laughter, smiling and social connection are good for the human being in myriad ways. Managing your diabetes may sometimes feel like a full-time job, and while this may at times be true, your overall self-care is actually one of your most important occupations.
Fun Is Good For You!
Fun is undeniably good for you. If you Google "fun and endorphins" or a similar combination of related search terms, you'll come up with thousands of results relevant to this very important subject that is directly related to your health.
Fun can also mean different things to different people, so it's up to you to define what fun means for you. Maybe you like crossword puzzles or playing Scrabble. Or maybe you like to watch the waves roll in on the beach. Or maybe you like flying a plane on weekends. It's your choice, in the end. Just make sure you have fun every day.
What About Endorphins?
Smiling releases endorphins, and these "feel good chemicals" course through your bloodstream, decreasing stress and elevating your mood.
Exercise (which, by the way, can often be fun) also releases endorphins. (Consider the famous "runner's high" that many athletes rhapsodize about.) And since some of us don't exactly like running, it's a blessing that there are many forms of exercise, from yoga and Pilates to bicycling, swimming and walking.
While sugar is certainly of concern, dark chocolate has many benefits (including the release of endorphins), and there are many chocolates that are now sweetened with sugar substitutes that don't cause a blood sugar spike. Shop around for the one that works for you.
Laughter releases endorphins. And even if your laughter is "fake" or forced, your body actually can't tell the difference and releases the happy chemicals anyway! Of course, we all would rather laugh for real, but sometimes just faking it for thirty seconds can bring on the real thing! Just ask practitioners of Laughter Yoga!
Meanwhile, socializing and having meaningful interactions with others also releases endorphins, so feel free to chat, socialize, laugh, talk, play, sing and cavort with others every day, even if only for a few minutes.
Although it soothes the savage beast, music also touches the pleasure centers of the human brain, and endorphins are released from that pleasurable sensation of listening to music we like.
Stress Reduction is Real
The stress reduction produced by having fun and experiencing the release of those happy chemicals is a very real and concrete way to improve your health. We all know that stress can increase blood sugars, so why not have some fun and reduce stress daily? It's a true win-win!
Fun Can Be A Way Of Life
Making fun an intrinsic part of your daily life is not as hard as you think. I know that many of us have lives that are stressful, and we have many responsibilities that may make having fun seem like a frivolous pursuit. But if you think about the countless benefits of stress reduction in terms of your health, well-being and longevity, you'd probably agree that making fun a central aspect of your daily life is probably worthwhile.
Personally, I'd like my epitaph to read, "He sure had a lot fun before landing here!" What about you?