Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Importance of Play

I admit: I tend to get a bit addicted to work. If something grabs my attention, I can be completely absorbed without much thought for anything else. But even if you are working at a job you don’t love, scheduling play in our lives when we have so many other things to isn’t easy. But here’s the thing: play’s incredibly important.

  • Play releases stress. We live in a world where stress is chronic – from our children’s sport commitments, to our careers, even to our families and friends – there is always something that needs done, yesterday. When we let go and do something we enjoy, all that intensity falls away. Think about it: ever notice your shoulder starting to creep towards your ears, or maybe your legs restlessly tapping, because the stress you’re under makes you tense? When we sit back and laugh with friends, move our bodies in an activity we love, or simply relax, it not only adjusts our mindset, but releases the strain.
  • Play refreshes our brain. When we’ve spent too much time focused on work and schedules, our mind closes down to possibility. Our creative juices disappear. We’re less effective at our jobs because our problem solving narrows into one focus, and we struggle to see another perspective. When we get away from it all for a short time, we return with renewed vigor and a fresh viewpoint and become more effective.
  • Play is fun. For some reason, when we became responsible adults, fun became a foreign idea! When we’re children, play is all that exists. But as we age, we get further and further away from the joy of play. And with that shift comes the unpleasant realities of depression and anxiety. One of the best medicines for a sad mind is to have fun.

Okay, so you’re sold on playing more in your life, right? But how do you do it? Where do you find the time? The good news: it’s super easy! Play may mean going on vacation, but it doesn’t have to. When was the last time you smiled? The last time you can remember really having a good time? What’s something you always say you’re going to do, “when I have the time” or “when life slows down?”

For some of us, play means sporting activities, like tag football, basketball, or golf. Perhaps you may prefer taking a hike, attending a hula-hoop class, or even enjoying yoga. But if those activities constitute exercise for you, and not fun, then they don’t count as play!

Consider activities like enjoying a movie or board game with your family, creative pursuits like drawing, painting, or writing, relaxing with a good book, or playing fetch with the dog. For some, having lunch with a friend, going on a long drive, or gardening represent pleasure.

And your desire may change from week to week! Perhaps this week you can afford a massage, and next week, you want to try a jewelry making class. Whatever it may be, let your play bring healing to your soul, new thoughts to your life, and respite to your mind.

What elements of play do you work into your life – weekly or daily? Where do you want to add more play into your life? 

Contributing Writer

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