Like millions of others, I was saddened by the news of Jimmy Buffett’s passing. But I was frustrated by the term used by a number of media outlets to describe the significance of his life and music : escapism.

Rather than escapism, Buffett understood what many others do not:  namely that having fun is important.  As a therapist I would say that leisure time is not a luxury ; it is an integral part of balanced life style.  Indeed, his life expressed this balance. In addition to being a successful musician and entrepreneur, he always found time for leisure.  As he has aid on numerous occasions, “It’s important to have as much fun as possible while we’re here.

Frankly,  fun is an interesting word which deseerves more respect. Everyone likes ot have fun but fun itself is seen as trivial and the ursuit of which is not respected. Today I want to share some thoughts to address the under-appreciatiion of fun. I suggest, that despite its trivial associations, having fun it a vital part of a healthy life style.

Given  the high level of stress so many experience, Buffett’s perspective on life is a much-needed counterbalance to America’s dominant, hard-work ethic. This stern attitude has permeated the American psyche since our country’s inception. Here are some thoughts to help you bring your work/play division in balance.   

The Science of Play

Recent advances in neuroscience support this belief, as well. Stress-related disorders and burnout situations often involve individuals who are about all work and no play. 

Specifically, Brain research has discovered that, in addition to sleep, the brain needs conscious rest, during which the brain is not subject to stressful demands. The brain needs a break from worrying about problems.  Non- neural demand activities like meditation, taking a walk , listening to music, enjoying hobbies or watching TV provide this break. 


Sadly , Even though doctors and psycho-therapists recommend leisure activities as an essential part of stress management and a healthy lifestyle, having fun is frequently seen by many as frivolous or a luxury. Rather than being appreciated as an integral part of a healthy life-style, Vacations and play are often thought of as nice but something for which there simply isn’t enough time.

Some History

Historically, the prejudice against fun is rooted in our religious heritage and beliefs which expose a  guilt-ridden view of life. A dominant Christian belief viewed anything but work as wasteful and, worse, viewed idle time as something which that evil temptation could fill. (“The devil finds work for idle hands.”) Religious people aren’t In other words, people are not really religously entitled to let loose and just have fun.

A Misconception

Another factor working against leisure time which makes making time for leisure difficult is simply economic necessity. Many folks feel that, because of the demands of work, there just isn’t enough time for fun.  While understandable, many studies have shown that those who structure leisure activities into their schedules are actually more productive than those who don’t.,productivity%2C%20focus%2C%20and%20creativity.  

(As a side note.  Ironically, those who are overworked and eschew  leisure are more prone to substance abuse and addiction.  )

Fundamentally, whether one gives one decides to play and enjoy leisure activities or not comes depends on if s/he feels that they are allowed to have fun. I have found that, while this comment might sound absurd, it is not.

Many clients admit that they can’t relax and njoy even while on vacation.  They feel guilty for not working or worried that, when the vacation is over, they will be overwhelmed with work that they postponed. Indeed,  An inability to relax , set reasonable work-time limits and  enjoy non-work time is a serious problem for many who struggle with anxiety and other emotional challenges.

In remembering Jimmy Buffett and the joy his music brings us, it is important to value and prioritize opportunities for having fun.  His passing invites us to step back and ask ourselves: Are we leisure-deprived ?

Some Questions  Here are a couple of questions that might help you to reveal this deficit :

— Do you feel overwhelmed by life ?

— Do you have trouble sleeping?

— Have you have lost interest in or can’t find time for sex?

— You can’t remember when you took time off or had a vacation and don’t have one planned ?

— Do you feel that there just isn’t enough time for leisure?  Is always something more important to do than to rest or call time out ?

You get the point. If you’re not having frequent Margaritaville moments or feel that having them is impossible impossible, it doesn’t have to be this way. Look at your schedule and imagine how to eliminate unnecessary items. Not everything is really important.

Making these changes will free  up time so that you can replace unnecessary tasks with  fun activities. 

If you find that rearranging things is difficult, talk to a therapist. Thing can be different. You will be surprised how taking time off will make you more productive and enhance your overall joy of life.

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC         9/15/2023