No matter our age, we all need to have fun.

That’s the message from psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown, who says that as we get older, our lives become more structured – with work, bills, and chores. So we’re less likely to have spontaneous fun. And that’s a problem, because Dr. Brown says that having fun is like, quote: “wearing a suit of armor.” It protects our health. As adults, laughing and playing is a proven way to lower blood pressure, strengthen social bonds, and beat stress. So, how can we add more fun to our lives?

  • First: Get a hobby that uses your hands. Things like painting, writing, crafts, cooking and gardening are as close to childhood play as many adults get, because we have to use our hands. A recent study of 35-hundred senior citizens found that those with creative hobbies, in which they had to use their hands, were significantly less frail and they had less cognitive decline.

  • Another way to add more fun to your life: Play a game. Even if it’s a videogame on Facebook. In fact, the average online gamer today is a 43-year-old woman – who plays games like Words With Friends and Angry Birds. And surveys show that people who play games are more likely to socialize – on or off line – and tend to be happier in their relationships. And socializing has long-term health benefits because it relieves stress. 

  • Also: Listen to music. Psychologists say music offers one of the quickest ways to switch us out of a bad mood, and into a good one. And a study found that spending as little as 2 hours a month listening to our favorite music has as big an impact on lowering our blood pressure as losing weight, or avoiding salty foods.

  • Finally, for women – do fewer chores. Housework gets in the way of relaxing. And women do the majority of it. When psychologists studied what people did when they got home from work – the women who did chores didn’t have a dip in their cortisol levels. So their stress levels stayed elevated – straight from work into housework. But to live your healthiest life, you need to relieve stress. So either ignore your chores – or get help. Because after working all day, you need to relax.