Remember what it felt like to climb a tree with reckless abandon? To paint with no care of what others thought of your work? To sing at the top of your lungs like no one was listening? To lose yourself in a made up childhood game? As kids we were so good at playing. Really, it was all we wanted to do. I remember growing up in a small town knowing that that I needed to come inside when the streetlights turned on. Until then we would ride our bikes on the street and through the fields around our house, play hide and seek, cops and robbers, and any other game our little creative minds could come up with. It really was the best. Where does this go as we age? What gets in the way of the pure joy of just playing, being silly, and being in the present moment with our friends? As we have grown older, and taken on adult jobs, some of us have forgotten to make play a priority. To say “Yes” to a random adventure, to be reminded to set our phones and worries aside, and to indulge in a moment.
I am not entirely sure why we stop but I do know that the science is clear, play is really good for you. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play stated that our sense of play, how we play is very individual however we are all wired to do it, in fact we need it in order to develop skills, find joy, and improve our creative capacities.
We often think of play as adults in terms of what we do with kids, or in the sports we play but we also need to consider play just for ourselves. When was the last time you made something out of Lego, built a snowman, or had a water fight with other adults? Perhaps more importantly, can you remember how good these activities made you feel? This is because according to Brown when we play all the good endorphins are released in our brains which can lead to improved brain function. Both of these also reduce stress in our lives. His research also suggests that play can positively impact our brain’s capacity for creativity, emotional intelligence, and improved competency in our work and leisure activities.
You may be thinking, “when do I have time for play with my work, family, friends, exercise?” I will be honest about this, “I do not have time” theory never really flies with me. Turn off Netflix and play a board game with your friend. Put the drink down and plan a scavenger hunt for you and your partner. Make dinner into a game where you break into teams to race through the grocery store to find ingredients and then race to prep the meal. Eat that meal with spatulas and tongs instead of cutlery. Leaving a nerf gun at the front door after a long day with a note for your roommate to come find you and see if you have the same type of toy. Play does not have to be a massive project. It can be as simple as tuning up the music really loud and just dancing your heart out. Do not worry about looking silly, in fact embrace looking silly and remember how good it felt to just be in the moment and play with only one objective - to find pure joy in life.
The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.