I lost my sparkle (but here’s how I got it back)
How a Mexican Party Chicken helped me find my sparkle (and may help you find yours)
Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your sparkle? Maybe not full-blown burnout, more like life is gradually turning beige? It could be a sign that you need to frolic more my friend, because it turns out that having fun and playing is essential for feeling alive, and it is associated with positive health outcomes. Plus, the neurotransmitters involved when we play actually increase the neuroplasticity of our brain (which is a Very. Good. Thing.)
But before I give you some ideas on how to increase the level of fun and play in your life, here’s a story of a little Mexican Party Chicken…
The Mexican Party Chicken
Last month I lost my sparkle. It happens periodically when the duties, and ought-to’s of adult life get out of hand and outweigh the fun. I lose my joie de vivre – my sense of aliveness. I’m simply existing rather than flourishing.
On the first day of a (glorious) art and dance therapy retreat we were invited to pick up a little object from a selection of curiosities and use it to delve deeper into our subconscious mind. I was drawn to a little white and yellow wooden painted bird, with colored dots around its neck and around its tail.
The first task was to write down what we saw as if describing it to someone who was unable to see it. The 2nd task was to write down how this object related to our present situation.
(TIP. You could do this with any object your eyes are drawn to at home.)
I realized that I chose this chicken because I was drawn to the bright, cheery colours around it’s neck and tail, which looked like chicken jewellery. I believed that this little chicken was well cared for, all dressed up and feeling good about itself. This little bird was on its way to a party – a fiesta.
Gadzooks it’s a Mexican Party Chicken, I realised!
All you just laying eggs? All work and no fiesta?
In the same way that chickens work hard every day to lay eggs, with no fiesta in sight, I realised that my life had become ‘all work, no fiesta’. The balance between work/duty and play was completely out of whack.
As a responsible adult it can sometimes feel like you’re just making eggs. If you’ve lost your sparkle, maybe part of you wants – no, NEEDS – to go and have more fun. That little chicken was telling me that I needed to put on some sparkly jewellery and dance! Do you?
This led me to reflect on what brings sparkle into my life. What lights me up inside…
Could ‘Sparkle’ be a measure of your aliveness?
I believe that feeling of inner sparkle is a measure of your aliveness. And that when you become aware that you have lost your sparkle, this a wakeup call that you need to play more.
The times when I’ve felt most alive are when I’m doing something that is:
- Fun and energizing to me (i.e. the opposite of work/duty);
- With my favorite people; and
- When I’ve kicked off the shackles of adult responsibility for a while and possibly doing something a bit rebellious or naughty!
Here are my top 3 moments of sparkle/aliveness:
- Galloping at full pelt along a deserted beach in Australia until the horse tired;
- Hosting a blind champagne tasting party for my besties (and getting fairly ‘blind’)
- Travelling around the top end of Australia in a teensy car with a 659cc engine with my once-favorite person in the world.
If you’ve lost your sparkle? How can you get it back?
I’m a firm believer in what Dr Rangan Chatterjee calls the Four Pillars of health, (which includes mental health):
* Food * sleep * rest * movement *
But I’d like to propose a fifth element: PLAY
Because, I reckon we adults don’t play enough. And play sparks neuroplasticity in your brain (which as previously discussed, is a Really. Good. Thing.)
The 3 elements of play
In her TED talk, Catherine Price talks about 3 elements that when combined together create what she calls “True Fun”
* Connection * Playfulness * Flow *
When we have real fun it’s usually in the presence of other people who are meaningful to us. That’s why two of my top three moments of aliveness were with my besties and my ex-partner.
We’ve all been starved of connection over the past 2 years so let’s get out there – in person – and off our phones/computers. (I’ve written an article on why we need connection in real life)
This is about jettisoning your perfectionism, having a light-hearted attitude towards the outcome and just doing it for the sheer fun of the experience. (Read about how perfectionism is a the ultimate buzz-kill).
As my cousin would say, this is where she presses the ‘F*ck it’ button!
This is also where that little twist of rebelliousness might come in. Letting go of the burden of adulting for even a minute.
In fact, most of the people I’ve ‘interviewed’ about aliveness, have told me that it involved a period in their life where they had less adult responsiblity, even for a moment.
How could you throw off the shackles of responsiblity and re-experience that youthful glee, even just for a short while?
When we’re in flow we are so focussed on the task that we loose track of time. We’re totally in the present moment. No distractions.
So put the phone in the fridge and the laptop in the garage and get out there and focus on frolicking my lovelies!
I’m doing some research on fun/sparkle and I need your help
I’m interested, nay borderline obsessed, with helping people find their sparkle again.
I would love you to tell me what makes YOU feel really alive, what helps you find your sparkle again.
For one friend it was going on an alpine rescue training in Tasmania. For another, it’s going to see the dinosaurs at the Science Museum. For my cousin, it’s her monthly sewing group.
Nothing is too weird or uncool… Seriously sometimes I just want to hang out with guinea pigs. So you can’t possibly be more uncool than me.
Please email me and tell me:
When were the times that you felt most alive? What were you doing and who were you with?
What do you do for fun/play? And how often do you get to do it?
You can either click this link or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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