"Fun is a good thing but only when it spoils nothing better." George Santayana
I have been thinking about the desire for fun and the recent increasing support that our society gives to fun activities that are unhealthy. We are sensation seeking by nature as humans. We like full bellies, clear minds, adrenaline, satisfaction, intimacy, relaxation and sensations. That is to some degree what it means to be alive; to crave, to yearn, to wish, to desire, to need. Satisfying desires and needs is sometimes confused with "fun" because it feels better to be satisfied than not. The problem is that many of the activities that satisfy us and therefore are fun are unhealthy.
If we are being honest, choosing a healthy path is not as fun as choosing an unhealthy path in the present moment. Eating a whole chocolate peanut butter pie is pretty satisfying, for a moment. Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, skipping work, unprotected sex, drugs, sitting on the couch and watching TV for hours, all the while ignoring the health consequences of these behaviors? Pretty fun, in the present moment. Unfortunately, all of these fun activities have really un-fun long-term consequences. Emphysema, hangovers, being fired, obesity, decreasing intelligence, terminal illness, exhaustion, decreasing productivity and effectiveness. Combining enough of these fun activities, for a long enough period of time and a person will eventually become a shell of themselves and most likely die as an ending consequence.
Being healthy takes work. Everyday. All day. Every single minute, you must keep in the back of your mind long-term health. Realistically, you don't have to BEHAVE in a healthy way ALL the time, but we must THINK healthy ALL the time. Part of being healthy all the time is doing something unhealthy every once in a while, in moderation. In order to be healthy long term, we always must have in the back of our mind that health is our end goal. We want to be healthy and even if we don't make choices every minute towards that, we must make choices the Majority of the time towards health in order to have health. That means that most moments we have to settle for the less fun choice out of several. We have to only eat a slice of peanut butter pie rarely, we have to not smoke cigarettes ever, we have to limit the alcohol drinks, we have to rarely call out sick to work, we have to use protection in sex always, we have to abstain from drugs, we can only sit on the couch and watch TV in moderation, we can never, not even for a second ignore that these behaviors have health consequences.
The first step is acknowledging the truth of health. The truth is that it is hard work. The truth is unhealthy choices are more fun in the moment. The truth is making unhealthy choices the majority of the time will probably kill us. The truth is that true health and wellness when it is achieved is the most fun you could have long term. I have made unhealthy choices over and over again for long extended periods of time, consistently and compulsively. I have had a great deal of fun in the moment making unhealthy choices. Those patterns of fun have brought me nothing but illness, being overweight, apathy, despair, ineffectiveness, and downright misery when I have let it go on too long.
I think sometimes we choose fun and lack of health because we don't think we can continue to apply ourselves to healthy choices long term. We think we are going to give in eventually so why not in this moment. If someday, fun is going to take over, why not start now? But I believe that the second step is understanding that you can make healthy choices MOST of the time, forever. That is all you need to decide. That you will make the healthy choices not ALL the time but definitely the MAJORITY of the time. That is the commitment you must make, only to make healthy choices 9 times out of 10. That is enough to produce health.
The third step is to believe that you deserve health long term. I think that we make unhealthy choices in the moment because sometimes we are afraid of true happiness. Society calls this fear of success or self-sabotaging behavior. But it really is not that rare. Most people do it in some way, it has become the human condition to feel less than healthy. We have access all day long every day to a plethora of vices and we are addicted to desire, to craving, to wanting, to searching. We wonder what will it feel like if we don't have anything to complain about, "what will living mean if I am not always desiring some other life", "what can I look forward to if I have achieved my potential", "what will I have to talk about if not how unhealthy I feel?"
The fourth step is to forgive yourself the unhealthy choices that you have made in the past. We wonder what is the point of believing we will be healthy if we have made so many unhealthy choices in the past. You can forgive yourself because you can understand why you have made choices that feel good in the moment. It makes perfect sense. You don't need to be shameful, only aware and you can transition to a place where you make unhealthy choices rarely. You can become more realistic and less self-loathing. Sometimes we need to miss a workout, that is part of being human, nothing to be ashamed of.
The fifth step in the purposeful moderation of fun is to take action. This very minute. This day. Right now. To moderate and choose healthy choices the MAJORITY of time from this moment forward. You are not giving up your in the moment fun, but rather placing more and more time in between those unhealthy choices. You are taking action to expand your moments of delayed gratification and deliberate moderation.
"The problem is when that fun stuff becomes the habit. And I think that's what's happened in our culture. Fast food has become the everyday meal." Michelle Obama