Why So Serious?
November 25, 2011 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me take life less seriously. What are some things I can do to practice loosening up?

I tend to take life too seriously and want to consciously practice a more light-hearted approach to life.

I think I'm looking for suggestions along the lines of:

-get a dog or any type of pet
-go to amusement parks
-go to a bingo hall for the hell of it
-try a new flavour of ice cream every Sunday

What are some things you do that keep you in touch with your inner goof ball?

posted by oceanview to Human Relations (30 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I need the wisdom of the hive mind with this question as much as you do I suspect BUT what has kept me sane is not totally losing touch with the silly things that you loved as a kid. Comic book and sugared cereal keep me sane sometimes. Revive your sense of wonder.
posted by Ponderance at 10:23 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Repeating funny movie/tv lines randomly throughout the day regardless if people get it. What matters is that I think it's funny. My SO does the same.

Lately it's the old Crank Yankers "all I got was a bucket of BEAKS"

I also try to watch Ren and Stimpy on my phone while waiting during errands.

Pets help.

posted by Bun Surnt at 10:31 PM on November 25, 2011

Weirdly, I recently changed my laugh and I feel like it's making me feel a lot more light-hearted. I have never rocked such a full-throated, hearty laugh. Not only do I enjoy laughing that way, but I think it's more satisfying to try to make me laugh than it used to be, so people do it more. Nobody's actually mentioned it to me but I just have a lot more fun laughing now than I did when I was mostly doing a nervous chuckle. I love it when I make someone laugh enthusiastically so I guess I'm just assuming that it's fun to others to make me throw back my head and guffaw a little.

A dog is a good idea, hanging out with dogs is extremely goofy lots of the time, but keep in mind that dogs are not all fun and games. There's really nothing sadder than a sick dog.

Give compliments. It's really fun to make other people smile.
posted by troublesome at 10:39 PM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Walk to your own inner soundtrack. Even serious or boring tasks become fun when you have your own background music going. It's like when Julia Roberts goes shopping in Pretty Woman, if there were no music she'd be like every other ordinary woman looking for a dress. Cue music, suddenly the whole mood changes. I do this when I'm grocery shopping or doing other stunningly normal things . . . humming a song in my head just makes everything brighter.

Also, don't be afraid to be whimsical. Spend a day wearing a classy, classy ring pop. If you see something that looks funny - e.g. a vending machine at a bowling alley that sells fake mustaches (true story!) - take a picture of it and text it to someone who will laugh with you.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 10:58 PM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Listen to ska or reggae music.

Watch videos of babies laughing on youtube.

Hang out with kids.

Make faces in the mirror with a friend.

Decorate your house with yellow and put some daisies in a vase on the table.

Go rock climbing.
posted by costanza at 11:27 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Walk and sing your favorite songs. Out loud. They'll hear you but you don't care.
posted by chrillsicka at 11:30 PM on November 25, 2011

When I and a friend get really, really down and are taking everything far too seriously, we get together for a bad movie night, usually along some sort of theme. We try to have ridiculous drinks and food that matches that theme (mead drinks for the medieval bad movie night, and so on). And we always end the evening with a viewing of Driven, the dumbest of dumb movies imaginable. Somehow it makes us both incredibly happy and because we've watched the damn thing so many times just mentioning scenes from it makes us both roar with laughter.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:53 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Trying brings the same issue that got you here right, a little bit of perfectionism and the feeling that you should be doing things a certain way? Actually if you google perfectionism it's a good start to getting some framework in place for understanding why you are "serious".

A lot of the time it's just booting yourself up the ass and thinking you need to try harder. Letting shit all hang out is a skill, and it's a skill with a catch 22 - the harder you try at it the worse you are at it.

I've done this and I bet you have - I need to be less of a perfectionist! I need to have more fun and not be so serious! That's it, I'm going to be the best most relaxed person I can! Aahaa, watch me, I'm so relaxed! Now I just need to be better at being more relaxed and funny then it'll all be fine and OH SWEET JESUS I'M BACK AT THE START.

If you get a little mindfulness happening, look at what you're doing right now, and see - am I trying too hard? Am I actually doing ok but putting heaps of pressure on myself? Is this thing, right here, that I'm dealing with, something I'm taking a bit to seriously? Can I accomplish this by relaxing and not stressing the details?

The trick is to deal with here and now, avoid systems or dogma. The more rules you have the worse this gets. Even right now, can you sit and think, even if I'm a little serious who gives a fuck? I'm alive. I could probably have a sandwich, sit in my boxers and not care about this topic and the world won't end.

Exactly what I'm going to do now re: some of my own problems. =)
posted by nozendo at 12:12 AM on November 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

Follow through on thoughts or images popping into your head.
Obviously, only the nice ones!
Like when you see that bubbly wrapping stuff - how cool is it to just put it on the floor and jump - or when it rains it's great to just get soaking wet sometimes or jump in puddles.
Or when a bizarre thought comes, share it.

Basically, use random opportunities to be silly.
posted by mkdirusername at 1:50 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Take opportunities that come your way. If someone asks you to go to a poetry reading / tea dance / roller disco, stop thinking "Well I don't know if that's really my thing", and just go. For bonus points, look up local events that are a little out of your comfort zone and go along.

When you are clothes shopping and you head for the changing room, always have at least one thing in your hand that is really different than what you would normally wear.

Dye your hair pillar box red.

Talk to strangers.

Go walking in the woods and jumping in leaves.

Do small but nice things for your friends and acquaintances for absolutely no reason.
posted by emilyw at 2:04 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not joking. I used to be a neurotic, tic-laden youth who lost sleep worrying about every little thing. All of these things improved immeasurably once I discovered the calming joys of alcoholic beverages.

There are those who would consider this advice flippant or irresponsible. They, too, need to loosen up a bit. :-)
posted by Decani at 2:26 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Watch a lot of stand up comedy
posted by gt2 at 2:43 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sometimes I ask myself: "Will I care about this in ten years?" This might only work if you're over 30, though.
posted by sesquipedalian at 4:50 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pick an activity that you know you take way too seriously, something that makes you feel really important because you think you are so damned good at it, and just stop doing it, or do it, but do it all wrong. Switch from right hand to left hand, or do it blindfolded, or do it while wearing a tutu and eating Skittles. If it's reading, buy yourself some crap books off the top ten list and enjoy them without a hint of irony. If it's bowling, throw gutter balls all night. If it's baseball, find a million ways to strike out. If it's your clothes, go out somewhere very public in the silliest bad clothes you can find. If it's your hair, cut it off and start again, or put it up in a bouffant and go out dancing. Reduce yourself to a child by being with children as one of them, not as some sort of behavior cop from the adult world.

After you realize that it just doesn't matter, you can go back to it with a totally looser (and total loser) attitude.
posted by pracowity at 5:37 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding "hang out with kids". They don't schedule fun - they find it in everything. They expend more energy on everything all day long, if given the chance, and probably sleep way better. Having one, and working in a school, I've noticed that they do certain things before they grow old and their bodies and moods get heavy and torpid:

They don't walk in straight lines, and hate sidewalks. They meander, walk on low walls and jump over any obstacle. They use their bodies - they love physical contact. They hug everything, if they can - trees, kids, dogs, a bag of marshmallows... If they walk through a store, they run their hands through the sweaters. Along the street, they'll do the stick along a fence thing. It's the sensation-seeking part of them. Smell everything. A shopping trip with a kid means everything is interesting to them, things we don't often give ourselves the license to think about. From this past week: "Do all breads smell like bread?" "Let's see." "Hmm...they all smell bready. But some are different, not just because they have stuff in them. I think I can smell sweet! I never knew I could smell sweet! Flat ones smell flatter. What makes them smell flatter?" Even if you're not going to pick up navel oranges in the grocery store, hold them up and pretend they're giant googly eyeballs - if you do it at home, they actually feel kind of cool and bumpy and neat if you roll them all over your face (ahem).

They act on impulse - if they don't go and draw that robot right now, the thought might get lonely and leave! For a kid, finding maple keys on the ground = instant moustaches = hilarity. (For an adult = eww, maybe dog poop on them, on your face?!, and we're late just drop it and come on!) They don't always let doing things perfectly get in the way of just doing them. And then the things are done, they're proud of them for a good long while - they don't go straight to thinking about all the other things they have to do.

Snark isn't their first reaction to anything.

Everything is new and awesome! My daughter got a cast last night, so it was all "Making this cloth wet does what?! Then plaster gets hot?! Can I have some extra to make things with? Can we buy more plaster to make more things?!" And they look around, and find the awesome, and make it their own somehow. "Look! A squirrel with no hair on her tail! I'm naming her Shivers." (said squirrel is a rat 200 feet away near a garbage can, eating an old french fry.)

Question everything, test everything. Except for foods, if you don't want to - the best part of being a grownup is you're the boss of what you eat and when. As I often say - "I don't eat that because I'm a grownup and I don't have to if I don't want to." And yes, pie is a perfectly good breakfast food. Reminding yourself of the truly heady freedom of being the boss of yourself is important.

So, it may not be about trying to be light-hearted, or finding it and making it into work - it might just be about letting go of whatever's dragging you down, and tying little imaginary helium balloons to the parts already inside you that want to free up.

But do get a dog. They're the best too, partly because they're pretty much always happy to see you, and can you say that about every person in your life?
posted by peagood at 6:01 AM on November 26, 2011 [20 favorites]

Start a personal blog and use it to write humorous essays about your daily life. I had one for a few years, and after awhile it became second nature to look for the humor in everything that happened to me. I'd be in the middle of some aggravating situation and find myself thinking about how I could "tell it funny."

Pets play into this awesomely well, as they are always doing something aggravating or cute or inexplicable that makes for a good story. For example, a few years ago there was a weird situation that culminated in one of my cats biting me hard in the upper back part of my thigh. It was very traumatic at the time, but it wasn't long before I had spun it into an amusing tale of "the time I got cat snot in my eye and my other cat bit me in the ass."

If you can learn to rant humorously about cat puke, angry customers and that asshole who cut you off in traffic this morning, it goes a long way to lightening up your outlook in general.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:25 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why do you want this? Do you have people around you telling you you are "too serious" and to "lighten up" (GRAR!). If so, the solution is to stop hanging out with people who say things like that!
posted by parrot_person at 6:40 AM on November 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

you can always have your own private dance party!
posted by abirdinthehand at 6:42 AM on November 26, 2011

Best answer: Thanks parrot_person. It's not necessary for everyone to be whimsical in the same way. Trying to lighten up by adopting out-of-character zany behavior maybe work as a shock treatment, but it also seems pretty likely to just be uncomfortable and weird.

I say start in a way that's more letting go of the tense and serious hold on experience. It can start with how you hold your body. Right now, is there any muscle tension you can release? Doesn't that feel good? If you feel around, maybe you can find some "mental formation" to unclench, too.

It might help to know what kind of too-serious you've got going. There's the neurotically anxious type, the intellectual type that craves depth and analysis, the gloomy type that's afraid of joy and likes darkness, and so on. Sorry for the stereotyping; I think these are basically cool personality traits before they become obsessive and produce suffering.

I love my friends who are zany, but I also love the ones that are kind of just wise and kind, and I love them all the most when they're at ease and comfortable. That's the kind of light hold on life I think is most important. Random zaniness may follow, if that's how you roll and how things unfold for you, but if it doesn't, there are many other ways of not taking life too seriously.

Meditation can be a way to consciously work on releasing one's hold on experience and settling into one's natural ease. It's helped me tremendously in just this way. Many practitioners and teachers report that experienced meditators tend to be relaxed and have access to their natural sense of humor and play.
posted by mbrock at 7:16 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take an improv class.
posted by postel's law at 7:23 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hang around kids or dogs. If you are not sure about adopting a dog of your own I'm sure a local animal rescue will let you foster, or even go volunteer to spend time with the dogs at the kennels. It's hard to be serious when a dog puppy bows to you and wants you to chase him around like a fool.
posted by wwax at 9:05 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Color! Go right down to your nearest department store and buy some coloring books (or print some pages from the internet) and crayons or coloring pencils and color! It's a great way to get in touch with your inner child.

Get out some old magazines, mail order catalogs, or whatever, and make a mess creating nifty collages. Cover notebooks, lampshades, boxes, whatever! Also a great way to get in touch with your inner child - by covering your hands with sticky elmer's glue!

Find someone to play catch with, or frisbee, or tag, or Calvinball... or whatever you enjoyed playing as a child. Make it non competitive so y'all can just have fun for a couple of hours.

Watch silly stuff on TV.

Don't get a pet unless you're really sure you want the responsibility of training, feeding, and caring for a pet. Pets are great, but they're a huge responsibility.

But my best advice on being less serious is to live in the now. It doesn't matter what happened in the past, even yesterday can't be changed, and no one knows what will happen in the future. We can't even predict what will happen in the next few hours. Basically all we have control over is right now, and even that is iffy. So, you might as well make the most of the moment. Whether it's doing the best job you can or having the most fun you can, now is always the best time to do it. ^_^
posted by patheral at 9:41 AM on November 26, 2011

You know that thing? That weird/anachronistic/unusual/obscure thing you've always kind-of-sort-of been interested in, like since you were a kid, but never get around to pursuing because first your parents said no, and then you were afraid your friends would think you were a dork, and then you figured you were too grown up to start now?

Do that thing!
posted by usonian at 9:44 AM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

lolcat videos! It's almost impossible to take life too seriously when you're surrounded by cats. Especially this awesome song about being a cat (NSFW lyrics): I'm a Stupid Cat!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 11:38 AM on November 26, 2011

Astronomy. Learn about the unimaginable distances and billion-lightyear-scale structures of the universe. Try to imagine a quasar spewing the matter of 600 earths every minute at near light speeds into space, or a hypernova that releases 10^20 times the energy of the Sun (holy fuck!) in a second. I know this stuff and I'm getting all excited typing it.

You ain't shit. This civilization, planet, solar system, and galaxy ain't shit. There's nothing to take seriously, man.
posted by cmoj at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Maybe rustle up a few movies that dwell in a lighthearted way on the absurdity of life? I'm thinking movies like Being There, or almost anything Monty Python...

A little darker but may help you get where you want to be in the end: Harold and Maude.
posted by Sublimity at 12:19 PM on November 26, 2011

Nthing astronomy. Always makes my problems shrink down to a pea. Or any zany science. Biology does the same thing really. Or geology. Anything where you realize just how ridiculously weird reality actually gets.
posted by ead at 12:48 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Get drunk or stoned if you are going to be in a position of watching your family fight. It will seem like TV and made you laugh instead of cry. I don't know what's more not serious than that, and you get to be intoxicated AND get perspective on some issues.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 2:08 PM on November 26, 2011

Other suggestions, from a chronically non-serious person who still gets serious when I have to (my last answer was not totally kidding, but it wasn't that serious):

-Yes, try to revive your sense of wonder. What's every kid's favorite question? "Why?" Start asking why about everything and try to feel the wonder of some of the things you will learn.

-As BunSurnt, I get a lot of pleasure throughout the day by repeating funny lines from movies or comedians that may or may not be well-known. My friends catch on to my favorites and come to expect them. It's a very silly activity.

I think you should do the ice cream thing for sure. When you make it through the flavors, try adding random things like rainbow sprinkles, oreo chunks, chocolate chips, brown sprinkles, marshmallows, m&ms, heath bar, mmmmm. Also, start watching cutsie but somewhat adult-appreciated cartoons, ala Spongebob. He will make you giggle at very silly things. But smart things. Would a show ONLY for kids take place in a town called Bikini Bottom? Also, be a celebrant. If there's snow, throw a snowball. If there's a fountain, toss a penny, make a wish. If there's a child, play with him. If there's a pool, swim. Basketball net? Hoops. Have fun with whatever you have and make as big of deals (in a good way) as possible about close friends' birthdays and other holidays - it puts you in a good fun mood. Write down or remember your closest friends' b-days and call them at midnight, or text them at midnight, get them a cupcake, get them a very thoughtful present of any price range - you will feel great about yourself when you see you're making them feel great about themselves, and being whimsical is really fun.

Hope that helped.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 6:25 PM on November 26, 2011

Seconding take an improv class. I'm almost done with my first one (we had our graduation show last night! Woo!) and it's been a ton of fun. I also watch a lot of improv - search YouTube for Whose Line, Improv-a-ganza, DCGS/Drew Carey's Green Screen.
posted by booksherpa at 9:36 PM on November 26, 2011

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