Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

Having fun adds a lot to your quality of life. When we smile, we produce those positive hormones—endorphins—that help lower stress. Having a good laugh does the same thing. Having fun with people we care about brings us closer. And having fun gives us a break from the pressures of life and helps us maintain our perspective. Having fun reminds us that life is good.

How does your chronic condition affect the fun you’re having in life? Have you had to make some adjustments to accommodate the limitations that your condition has placed on your life, such as your diet or the kinds of activities you can get involved in? Maybe life just seems a whole lot more serious than it did before you were diagnosed. If so, have you decided that your fun days are in the past?

Sure, your chronic condition may mean making some changes in how you have fun. But it doesn’t mean you can’t experience the benefits that having fun can bring to your life.

How to keep the fun times coming

What’s fun? That’s up to you! If having fun is all about letting loose today and facing the consequences tomorrow, then it may be time to consider toning things down a few notches. Most likely, you can make some adjustments in what you do to have fun in ways that support your wellness. Change does not equal less fun. So keep an open mind.

Find some new ways to have fun. Focusing on what you can’t do is a good way to guarantee that you don’t have any fun. And resisting change is a good way to stay stuck in one unhappy place. Who needs that? How about making it a goal to add something completely new to have more fun in your life?

Fun in a crowd? Then get one started! Sure, it would be nice if someone would call and suggest doing something fun together. But if you’re waiting for someone to knock your door down, then you might be waiting a long time. If you want to have some fun with someone, think up an activity and give them a call. Or get connected with a new group or club.

Fun on your own? It’s still fun. Consider a new activity or hobby like a game, puzzle, or comedy on TV. Get lost in something you enjoy. Who knows, you might catch yourself smiling.

Practice letting go. It’s hard to have fun when you are constantly squeezing the life out of your life. How do you that? By digging in your feet and insisting on being in control of every possible outcome, even the things in life you don’t have any control over, like the future. Look at it this way: when you let go of the need to be in charge, you can let down your guard and have a little fun.

Look for the humor in everyday life. Having a sense of humor can go a long way toward taking the rough edges off the day. Here’s a starting place: Have a good laugh at that need to be in control of everything.

Put some fun on the schedule. Just like you schedule your job and your other responsibilities. Otherwise you may not take the time. And that doesn’t have to mean two weeks in the Bahamas. How about 30 minutes a day for a little enjoyment? Is that too much to ask?

Having fun yet? If not, you may be forgetting to include the fun factor in your self-care. Yep, it’s time to get serious about having more fun!

More from Dr. Gary:
Depression or Diabetes Distress? Here's Why It Matters and What You Can Do!
Vent! Nine Steps to Getting It Out of Your System
Second-Guessing: Seven Steps toward Getting Out of Your Own Way