Funal Wellness

Terry Lieb Living out your Faith, Mindfulness, Total Wellness 4 Comments

This eighth area of wellness—“funal” wellness—has generated more questions and strange looks with coaching clients and participants in Total Wellness workshops and presentations than any other.

Funal wasn’t an area of focus in my original Total Wellness structure. I discovered its critical importance while doing intake and symptom assessments for clients requesting counseling. I began asking the question, “What do you do for fun?” 

A common comeback was, “What do you mean?” That response alone was a strong indication of depression. Some folks couldn’t ever remember having fun, others describe fun as “slipping away” or “disappearing before I realized it.”

This became a standard component of my assessment routine. I soon realized fun could be yet another resource in my growing treatment arsenal. Assisting patients in developing avenues and tools to regain control of their emotional health is foundational in successfully treating not only depression but many of the other presenting concerns that show up in counseling.

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Then one day while I was reviewing my notes and preparing for an upcoming session, it became clear to me that the ability to create, experience, and appreciate fun was actually not just an issue for my patients; it was an area of wellness! 

The following month I had a wellness presentation scheduled so I decided to add it as another area of focus for my Total Wellness model. However, when I went to redo my handout I realized all the other areas ended in “al.” So I did something I had never done before, I created a new word: “funal”! (Doing things I have never done before has always been “fun” for me!)

I quickly found that my coaching clients who weren’t reporting any significant levels of depression but were “driven” to develop a healthier life style, did not choose funal as an area to work on and even resisted my recommendation that they may want to consider it as a focus!

Their response would often be, “I don’t have the time” or “To be honest, Terry, I don’t understand it’s importance compared to the other areas.” Or their “fun” activity was one more thing to check off on their “to do” list.

For my spiritually-minded wellness clients who might perceive fun as superficial or even selfish, I would often expose them to some quotes from Ann Lamott such as: “Laughter is a bubbly, effervescent form of holiness” or “Rest and laughter are the most spiritual and subversive acts of all. Laugh, rest, slow down.” Raising the possibility that their God may have a sense of humor has led to some fascinating conversations. 

Interestingly, funal is one of the least understood areas but eventually one of the most appreciated, especially when a person begins to experience how it can enhance many of the other areas such as relational, emotional, mental, and spiritual!  I am firmly convinced that fun, humor, and play are invaluable God-given gifts meant for our enjoyment.

For many folks, just giving themselves permission to prioritize fun and making time to put it back into their life is all that is necessary to start enjoying the benefits of funal wellness. However, some people need significant help in identifying what has the potential for creating fun in their life journey. Actually freeing the client up from their preconceptions of what fun is can also be a challenge!

A few years ago a wellness client I’ll call Pam (reluctantly) choose to address her funal wellness and together we struggled to surface potential fertile ground for a fun experience. Her assignment was to ask several folks who knew her well what they thought could or has been a fun experience for her (one of my “go-to” questions along with “What did you like to do for fun when you were a kid?” and “What have you often planned to do but it somehow never makes it to the top of your priority list?”).

Three of the five people Pam asked, including two of her children, brought up the volunteering she did for a program that provides support services for differently abled folks. When we discussed this feedback in the next session she agreed, saying, “I really do look forward to that time, especially when I can use my artistic gifts and experience to help them discover the gifts they never knew they had. Unfortunately those opportunities only happen occasionally.”

I suggested we develop a proposal for her to present to the program director of the agency for Pam to run an art class for the kids. Pam hesitantly consented. The director, who hadn’t realized Pam’s artistic background, agreed to give it a try and Pam began offering the art class one hour a week. However, the students began asking why they couldn’t have an hour class every day? 

Strong indicator of Funal Wellness

Within six months the director obtained a grant and offered Pam a part-time job!  Even though we hadn’t been looking at vocational wellness, Pam had found her calling! She said, “I was able to develop a complete game changer in my life! No offense Terry, but ‘funal’ doesn’t even come close to describing what this is for me!”

Another memorable encounter was with a young, highly driven coaching client who had sailed through law school and leaped through all the required hoops to quickly land a position with a large law firm. She was working 60 to 80-hour weeks. The wellness coaching was a gift from her husband in hopes she “could gain some balance In her life—and ours!”

Initially Jill completely avoided funal wellness in our discussions and eventually labeled it as “confusing and out of place.” It turned out to be the most challenging area for her. As is often the case, the most challenging and often the last area a client chooses turns out to be the most powerful and most helpful in their wellness journey!

As we worked on what Jill might find fun, the question which ended up giving us direction was, “What do you think about doing but don’t because it seems frivolous and you might initially label as a complete waste of time?” 

“Actually that’s easy. I would sit quietly in our old, over-stuffed, amazingly comfortable chair in the sunroom with my little appaloosa dog on my lap eating an entire container of organic strawberries and pre-harvested pomegranate seeds and reading a trashy romantic novel!”

She reluctantly blocked out a Saturday morning “to waste time” in the sunroom. She ended up staying in that comfy chair until midafternoon finishing her trashy romance!

Jill began making “sunroom time” a regular part of her schedule and soon reported a significant boost in her mood. She felt calmer and happier. Her husband called me, wanting to pay for more wellness sessions. He told me that getting off the professional treadmill—even briefly—had allowed his wife to be “more present” in their relationship, a totally unexpected but much-appreciated outcome!

As has always been the case, I have learned a lot from both my patients and my coaching clients. They have helped me understand that everyone has their own definition of fun. As healthy as laughter is for us, it isn’t essential for some of us to have fun. Art and creativity can be enormously satisfying and even “difficult” things like rock climbing or chess can be fun for certain people. And while fun often happens in relationship with others, for some folks fun blossoms most amazingly when they can spend quality time alone. In some cases, what may be fun for one person could even be uncomfortable and stressful for another person!

For example, I have had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer auctioneer for a nonprofit agency which happens every April for over twenty-five years. I can’t wait! It’s stage time and a chance to heckle folks, all the while supporting our neighbors who haven’t been as blessed materially as we are.

(As a side note, when it comes to “heckling,” I make every effort to never create or participate in any “fun” that can be at a cost to another person or group of people. I would even suggest we consider challenging others who promote this type of hurtful and alienating behavior. I must remind myself that to not confront is understood as endorsing.)

In a recent conversation I was sharing how much I was looking forward to this auction and how much fun it is for me. My friend said, “I’m glad you enjoy auctioneering. They couldn’t pay me enough to get up there, I would be a complete basket case!” This is a good example of what is fun for one person may be just the opposite for another!

Another important learning for me is being able to be flexible and make adjustments. For me personally this has been very helpful with one of my most funal activities: pickleball!

Needless to say, I am usually quite competitive. While I always work at improving my game, winning or losing has become of little importance. (Maybe my ability to remember who won has contributed to that changing perspective!)

However, if my partner or a player on the other team is focused only on winning, constantly questioning whether a ball is “in or out” and becoming frustrated and angry when things don’t go their way, that attitude can affect the “funal” climate on the court. My solution now at the end of the game is to thank them for the play and move on to another court. I will not allow someone to transform my funal experience into a stressful one!

As with all the areas of wellness, it is important to remain flexible and open to new possibilities as both we and the world around us continue to evolve. What may have once been fun may no longer be. But if we are investing regularly in the other nine areas of Total Wellness, opportunities to expand our funal wellness will surface, we just need to keep our eyes wide open!


  1. When was the last time you had fun? What were you doing? How did it make you feel?
  2. What is fun for you? What are the activities that can reliably be counted on to produce it? (If you don’t know, ask yourself what you liked as a child, what you keep “meaning” to do, or ask people close to you for their opinion.)
  3. Do you engage in some activities that are “supposed” to be fun, but actually aren’t for you? Have you ever turned something fun into a competition, an achievement, or a money-making venture that sapped it of its pleasure?
  4. How much time do you set aside to have fun? Are you satisfied with this amount?
  5. Do you think taking time for fun is worthwhile? Why or why not? What benefits might “funal” wellness offer you and those you interact with?
  6. Do you believe your God desires you to experience and possibly help create fun on a daily basis? Why or why not?
  7. How can you build more fun into your life (this could include more fun activities or adding fun to whatever you already pursue)? Is this something you would like to pursue? Why or why not?


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              James Buskirk (Jim)
              James Buskirk (Jim)
              May 9, 2023 10:34 am

              WOW! Another good one! Keep em coming. This one hit home. I can’t remember the last time I really had fun. I’m going to on this.

              May 9, 2023 10:22 pm

              The last time someone asked me that question, I facetiously said “sleep.” Being retired, I do a lot of volunteer work, so taking time to unwind is important for my well-being. I am fortunate to be able to purchase season tickets to the local repertory theatre and some college sports. It balances my life. Thanks for the thoughtful question.

              May 10, 2023 12:15 pm

              What a great sharing! Since I retired, I have really focused on what brings meaning into my life. Doing things that are enriching are fun to me. Writing, hearing live music, helping those who create and promote creative endeavors for others, being an activist for democracy, water aerobics, walking in nature. All of these things and more help me generate positive endorphins in my body that bring me joy. I always wrote in my professional life, but I wanted to do creative writing. At age 72, I went back to college to discover what kind of writing I liked to… Read more »

              May 29, 2023 10:14 am

              Thank you Terry for this post! My funal activity is going out with friends. We typically spend hours together just talking and catching up. We do this either at a local bar/restaurant, at our house, or their house.