Walk through any park on any given day after school, and you will most likely see and hear a bunch of kids running around with abandon, laughing, and having a super time doing what most kids do best – playing.
Unfortunately though, once those rambunctious kids reach a certain age, for most of them, playing will just be a fond memory from their childhood. I have a question for you. Where is it written that adults can’t play? Did you know that there is a significant amount of research that shows us why, as adults, we need to be incorporating play into our daily lives?
The benefits are numerous: Playtime lowers our stress levels, boosts our creativity and problem solving skills, enables us to develop deeper connections with others, and it’s shown to improve our brain activity. If the recent popularity of adult coloring books is anything to go by, I’d say we’re ready to let our inner child let loose and run free.
Here are 5 tips to bring more play into your life:
Scheduling sounds like a very grown up thing to do, doesn’t it? But let’s face it, we are all incredibly busy – rushing to get the kids ready in the morning, rushing to work, and then at the end of the workday, rushing home to get dinner ready. In fact, we spend so much time rushing around, we often forget to slow down and enjoy the moment.
A suggestion: schedule a playtime. Treat it as you would your regular yoga lesson or going to the gym. Put a time and day in your calendar and don’t allow yourself off the hook – even if you have a lot of work or are tired! Playtime can be anything you want it to be, from picking up a ball and playing fetch with your dog, or building a Lego car. It doesn’t matter what you do; it’s about the attitude you bring to it.
Do you remember times as a kid when you’d sit around the dinner table with your family and play a board game? Why not reintroduce family game night at home? Playtime helps build relationships, strengthen connections, and has the added bonus of teaching the kids how to be ‘good’ losers. Besides, there really is nothing better than sitting around the table and hearing your whole family engaged in conversation and laughter.
Our workplaces can be sterile and brain numbing places at times, so why not bring in a few toys? Grab some from home or buy a selection to brighten up your work place. When you find yourself stuck on how to solve a problem, or you’ve had a particularly stressful phone call, give yourself a 5 to 10 minute toy break. I guarantee that if you let loose and totally focus on the joy of playing, you’ll be able to return to what you were doing before with a new perspective.
Recently I’ve taken up juggling: whenever I feel the need to take a break, I stop what I’m doing and juggle. It’s great fun, it automatically gets me to focus on the juggling itself, it’s a great de-stressor, and it’s been shown to help improve memory and creativity.
Next time you’re in the car and a cool tune comes on, crank up the radio and boogie in your seat. Go on – I dare you! Nobody’s watching; and even if they are, they’ll smile when they see you dancing away in your seat. Once you get comfortable with seat dancing, you can expand to busting out a few moves in the office lunchroom or at home after a long day at work. Who knows…you may just start a dance party (plus it’s fantastic exercise)!
Call up one or a few friends and organize a play date. Meet in a central location, pull a coin out of your purse and then explain to everyone that you are leaving your adventure today up to fate. Get someone to call up for heads and down for tails, and then toss the coin to see where you’re going.
Each time a decision has to be made, give yourself two options (for example, do we stop for a coffee or keep walking?) and toss the coin to find your answer. Enjoy the freedom of not knowing in advance where you’re going or what you’ll end up doing.
The key point to remember is that play is not a luxury but a necessity if you want to live a healthy, creative, and joyful life. Don’t leave playtime just to the kids or your dog. Get out there, embrace that inner child and laugh until you cry!
Featured photo credit: Fotolia via au.fotolia.com
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