Many people are burnt out, languishing in their jobs, or struggling to decompress and rejuvenate themselves during their time off. Heavy workloads and added stress from global events in an always-on culture of email, social media, and streaming make it hard for us to relax or find joy in our lives.

When you feel like you have lost control of how you spend your time at work and at home, it can lead to serious physical and emotional challenges. However, the good news is that the opposite is also true! When you take back control of your attitude and your time, you can choose to invest it in the people and projects that bring you the most joy!

One 2019 study found that agreeing with the statement “I have a philosophy of life that helps me understand who I am” was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and higher levels of happiness. Other positive psychology studies have shown that happiness drives success, not the other way around. If you want to feel fulfillment, you must first find your joy and flow state in play.

Playtime creates a positive feedback loop that will help you feel even more fun and fulfillment from the rest of your life. Author Matthew Kelly says there are three good reasons to do anything. It is morally right and makes the world a better place. It is practically necessary to survive (eat, sleep, and pay taxes.) Or it makes you happy.

Here are five things you can do to be happier with your life and career:

  1. Lower the stakes. – Start with a simple yet challenging mindset shift to relieve the pressure that has built up in your life. You are enough. You are doing enough. Everything will be OK in the long run. Social media, the news, and societal pressure to keep up with the Jones has turn life into a panic, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When you lower the stakes of what you are doing at work, at home, or even on your day off, you give your mind and body permission to relax. Under extreme stress we can’t perform at our best over the long haul. Stress and high stakes are for immediate, short-term survival. Long-term success and fulfilment comes from passion not panic.

  2. Enjoy the power of less. – This is another simple, yet challenging, concept, but it is important to remember that happiness comes from the difference in our expectations and our results. Our culture has taught us to set big stretch goals and always be seeking higher levels of production and success, but science has proven that doesn’t make us happier. The less you want and need, the more you can exceed those expectations and be grateful for what you have. Learn to focus on how far you have come. It is easy to feel like you have less than the richest people we see on TV going to space, but it is equally easy to feel grateful compared to the poorest and sickest people on the planet. If you keep trying to climb the latter of success, all you will find is more latter… Enjoy what you have before you seek more.

  3. Create more than you consume. – Now, it’s time to put those new beliefs into action! One of the easiest ways to tell if you are building a life worth living is if you create more than you consume. Do create more media than you consume? Do you grow or cook more food than you eat? Do you give more to others than you take? These are tough questions, but if we can create more value to the world, our organization, or our family, than we receive, we will always feel fulfilled. It is a Backwards Law of life. Consuming will never make us feel full. It is the doing, being, and giving that fills our satisfaction the most, especially when we choose how, who and when.

  4. Say “Hell yes!” or “No. – We get to decide how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and when we get to play, pause, practice, ponder, and perform. Sometimes, we forget that. We give into other’s expectations of us. We are afraid to say no. We sleepwalk through life answering emails, phone calls, or other requests of our time, attention and energy. To find more fun, flow, and fulfillment, you are going to have to find a way to say no to those things that prevent them. Any easy way to decide if you should commit to something is that it excites you and brings you joy. Derek Sivers tells us that it should feel like a “Hell yes!” or you should say no. If it is a no, then find a polite way to delegate it, delete it, or defer it to a later time when it becomes a priority. Just remember, saying no doesn’t mean you just sit around watching Netflix until inspiration strike. You must choose to do something else that is a HELL YES!

  5. Give gifts and extend invitations to others. – These are two magic loopholes in our society for when we can reach out to others without the fear of being pushy, interruptive, or intrusive. Even if they don’t want a gift, it is always nice to receive one. Even if they don’t want to accept an invitation, it is always great to feel invited. If you want more fun in your life, be the person who invites others to the party. Make something for someone, give them the gift of your time and attention, or invite them to show you want they are passionate about. Happiness is contagious, and if you can spread joy to others, it will rub off on you and your family.

It’s time to do some spring cleaning in your life.

What was the last thing you did just for fun? What activities put you in the flow state where you feel playful and engaged? When do you feel most satisfied and fulfilled with your life? What is causing you stress, anxiety, and fear that you can remove from your life?

If you need more fun, flow, and fulfillment in your life, ask yourself how can I start?

  • #TreatYourself.
  • Find your theme song to sing or dance it out.
  • Make your own fun with a prank, joke, or funny picture.
  • Dress up in a costume.
  • Invite someone on a playdate to a concert, movie, park, sport, or museum.
  • Try a “yes day” with your kids.
  • Play a game just for fun like darts, pool, mini-golf, board games, or ping pong.

Finally, don’t forget you are an adult. That means you can give yourself permission to go make a mess or ruckus!

Go play!