Let’s Play. Here’s Why.

When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It’s the brain’s reset button. This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.”*

According to Oxford Dictionaries, to “play” is to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” Wait a minute, if “recreation” is the “Refreshment of one’s mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates; play,” I don’t think we can rightfully say that refreshing one’s mind or body lacks serious or practical purpose. Anybody who has ever suffered burnout will tell you how practical and serious it is to bring one’s energy back to life – at work and at home.

In fact, Harvard researchers have found that play not only relieves stress but improves brain function, stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, improves relationships, builds energy and resistance to disease. Wow. But then, if it’s that good, how come we don’t play more. Seems to me right up there with the best of ways to spend our time. And yet, a lot of folks don’t look at play that way. As one author put it:

Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.

Make time. You know you can. Somehow we all manage to find time for whatever it is we really want to do. But maybe you haven’t played in a long time, and don’t even know what would be play for you. After all there are so many kinds of play:

  • Object play (basketball)
  • Locomotor play (running)
  • Social play (pretending)

And there is play that doesn’t look like play at all. Take imagination. When we have a problem on our hands and may ask ourselves what someone we admire might do in a similar situation, is that not a form of playing around up there in the brain. In fact, more than a few people** I know play most of what could be the best parts of their lives up there in the brain, more as spectators up in the stands than players out there on the field of their very own lives. These folks spend time planning trips they never take, imagining love they won’t go out to find, wishing for their dream career from the desk they will not dare to leave. It’s a fine place to start, with that glimmer in the mind’s eye about how we dream things to be. But it’s a terrible place to be stuck, and won’t get us much of those serious and practical benefits of play if we are.

So, what’s in the way for those who don’t or won’t play as much as they could? Fear? Fear of looking like a fool? Fear of making a mistake? Fear of being undeserving? Fear of work undone? You name it. Name it for yourself. So for example, when the spoiler in you says ‘You have work to do’ you may follow that with something like ‘Yes, I do, and it will be there for me when I’m done refreshing my mind to do it better’. Or when the spoiler says ‘You will look like a fool out there on that dance floor’, you can agree again with something like ‘Yes, you are right, I might, but how I look is irrelevant for a physical activity aimed to improve how I think and feel.’ And for anyone having trouble figuring out what’s the best play for you, you may take a magic carpet ride back to your childhood, and picture yourself playing at what you loved to do. I, for one, spent hours on end writing books as a little girl, with construction paper covers, sewn up the middle with yarn. For me, reading and writing were play, and still are favorite ways to spend my time. And you? What was it for you then? How do you dream about playing now? How about to start: One time a day designated just for play? Or something else you might devise. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202- 617-0821

* Working Smarter “The Missing Link to Life Satisfaction: Play. Joe Robinson

https://www.worktolive.info/blog/topic/play-and-stress

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

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