Six Ways To Incorporate More Play Into Your Day
We live in a culture that tends to dismiss the importance of play for adults. There’s a sense that once we’ve grown up, it’s time to get down to work and be serious. Play can be perceived as unproductive or even as a guilty pleasure. And there really is often very little time to play once we take care of our personal and professional responsibilities. But the research shows that play is every bit as important for adults as it is for children.
Play is More Than Just Fun
Play isn’t just fun, it’s necessary. Research shows that play can lower your stress levels, improve your mental functions, and even build your confidence. It offers a wide variety of other personal benefits that help you live a better life at every level – and enjoy it more.
Play helps us to build social bonds, to belong in our community, it can help regulate our emotions and even develop our social learning. It supports being adaptable and flexible and can even help us develop the ability to suppress unwanted urges.
I can hear it now: “that sounds like a good idea but I just don’t have time for play.” Or “Trying to play more will just stress me out because I already have so much to do.” Or “that’s great for some people but I am just not naturally a very playful person.”
The truth is that we could all find a long list of reasons to continue old patterns and to resist changing. If you’re feeling like something is missing or you want to enjoy life more, play is proven to be a great and a simple way to bring more enjoyment back into your life.
Play Isn’t Just for Kids
A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up as adults can make us smarter at any age.
Dr. Brown’s research shows that play not only energizes us and brings joy to our lives, it’s also highly involved with our intelligence and development. This is true for all ages – adults as well as children. Through the National Institute for Play, he’s working to better understand its significance.
So what does play do for the brain and the body? Apparently it does a lot. There is science showing that nothing lights up the brain like play. It helps develop contextual memory, lifts our spirits and literally helps us to feel more young again. Play is a gateway to more vitality, it fosters empathy and can even strengthen our immune systems. It helps promote a sense of belonging and community among children and adults alike.
Studies show that much of our human trust is established through play when we are children. But we begin to lose some of this basis as adults when we take on the serious responsibilities of adulthood and we’re playing less. So we can also gain trust and even a sense of safety through more play.
When we are playing on a regular basis, this also translates into our contribution at work and our enjoyment of our day-to-day lives. Sufficient play can mean:
- More energized focus
- Full involvement in the task at-hand (even when we’re working and not playing)
- Greater success in the activity
How to Play More Every Day
How can you incorporate play every day for a better, more enjoyable and more empowered life?
- Set a Goal to Have More Fun & Decide What Fun Means For You. After all, what’s the point of having success if you’re not enjoying yourself? List the little things you enjoy doing that bring a smile to your face. Do you like dancing? Getting out on the water? Playing sports? Riding a bicycle? Rock climbing? Trivia night? Coloring books and creative play? Traveling? Consider what activities really light you up and make it a priority to schedule those in your life. Keep in mind that if its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.
- Have More Fun at Work. Imagine waking up each morning and looking forward to the fun you were going to have at work. Organize some intentional goofing around in the office. Or get the team out for some laughter yoga, a pub night or a softball league. How can you set up your workspace so that you look forward to spending time there? Personally, I like to work in a bright space with fresh flowers and lots of natural light – and to take a break and get outside at some point during the day.
- Hang Out With a Little Kid. Kids innately know how to play and have fun. Whenever I visit my nieces and nephews, I know we’re going to have fun. They never disappoint. I visited family over the Fourth of July and immediately on arrival, my five-year nephew ran up and said “Aunt Shannon! I miss your face and I love you! Can we go to the beach?” I knew we were going to have some fun.
- Spend Time with Fun Friends. The people you spend the most time with have an enormous impact on your life. If you feel like you need to re-learn how to relax, to laugh and play more, spend time with friends who are already doing these things. It’s always easier to laugh and play when you’re around others and can just follow their lead.
- Plan a Play-Date With Your Significant Other. Your dates don’t always have to be dinner or a movie. Instead, get out on the water or go for a hike in nature or go dancing. Play in whatever way gets you moving and laughing together.
- Schedule It. If fun and play aren’t a part of your regular routine, it helps to schedule a few hours for fun in your calendar. Scheduling fun can also help you end procrastination… if you have something fun you’re looking forward to doing in the evening, you’ll be more motivated to finish that report so you can get out of the office and make it to your fun commitment. If this seems unrealistic on a daily basis, start with a fun minimum – it may be a couple of hours on the weekend that you can commit to as a start.
Making time for fun and for play is a serious matter. As an adult, you have every right to enjoy yourself. And as the research shows, we adults need play. Imagine life with no games, no fantasy, no play. We are designed to play through our entire lifetime.
Think of someone you know who is young at heart. I’ll bet that if you look more closely you’ll find that they’ve found a way to incorporate play into their lives.
What do you enjoy doing for fun? How can you incorporate more play into your life this summer?
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