“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw
In our modern society we tend to think of play as the opposite to work, and so as we think less play is a normal part of growing up. Research however, is showing that the opposite to play is actually depression. Nothing lights up the brain like play, and there is increasing support showing that play, and a playful attitude are not just enjoyable, but they are also an essential part of our wellbeing. Increased play not only brings joy, but it is also vital for problem solving, creativity and relationships.
So what exactly is play? In itself, the term “play” is hard to define, as it’s a process, not a goal. Play is a state of present-moment awareness where the focus is on fun and pleasure – the experience – and there is no end result, other than a feeling of wellbeing. Play is art, books, movies, music and comedy…it’s flirty and daydreaming too. All activities that as adults we allow less of in our daily lives, instead focusing ourselves on “busyness”.
Dr. Stuart Brown is a leading researcher in play. He’s reviewed over 6000 “play histories”, case studies that explore the role of play in each person’s childhood and adulthood and found that a lack of play was just as important as other factors in predicting criminal behaviour amongst murderers in Texas. It was also found that play is able to rekindle the emotional intimacy in couple, helping form a lasting long term relationship. Play can even foster a deeper connection between strangers and cultivates healing.
So here are some ways to integrate play into your daily life:
1. Set some time aside
If you’re busy set some time aside to do something you enjoy, whether this is reading a book for 15 minutes before bedtime, or playing with your cat or taking your dog for a walk. Play doesn’t need to be every second of every day. A little bit of play can go a long way towards boosting your productivity and happiness.
2. Surround yourself with playful peopleIf you don’t have kids, why not take your nieces and nephews to the park? Kids know how to play, and getting involved with kids in their games can be an easy way to incorporateplay into your life. If you don’t have any kids in your social circle, surround yourself with friends who tend to be more playful and incorporate games and play into your personal relationships.
3. Create your own play history
Mine your own mind for times in your life where you were really playful. What activities did you love to do as a kid? Did you do these activities with others, or on your own? How can you incorporate that into your daily life now? I loved drawing as a kid, so I recently went out and got some colouring pencils to colouring in at home. I also really lovedreading, so I make it part of my journey to and from work.
4. Be spontaneous
You don’t always need a plan, so stop trying to predict everything that’s going to happen during the day. Let your hair down and go for a spontaneous road trip if you feel like it.
5. Watch this pretty epic TED Talk with Dr. Stuart Brown if you’re not quite convinced on the power of play!