Remember when you were still a kid? A pile of blocks became an opportunity to build the world’s highest tower and swings transformed into rockets on their way to the moon. Your imagination brought you all the fun you needed. When you got let out of class for recess, you didn’t just grumble and march your way out – you ran, jumped and screamed! You were always ready to let loose and have fun. You were spontaneous, imaginative, and willing to take more risks than you do now. For many of us as we grow up, we somehow lose touch with our innate playfulness and get the idea that fun is not an essential part of life. Yet, experts in the field of psychology are siding with kids on this one.
According to Brene Brown, PhD,
“a critically important component of wholehearted living is play. Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest (but) spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.”
It’s unlikely that you would go for weeks without sleeping, but so often we can go a week or more without setting aside time for fun. We live in a culture of productivity, where “getting things done” and “proving ourselves” encompasses so much of our time and mental space. If we fail to complete everything on our to-do list, we feel like we are not enough.
Playfulness makes you perform better.
In Brown’s book Gifts of Imperfection , she explains the toxic effects this “not enough” mind-set and discusses her philosophy of “whole-hearted living – a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.” When we play, we take the pressure off ourselves to perform and seem perfect. The world looks brighter, people seem friendlier, and when we return to our work, we feel refreshed. But taking time to play does far more than just make you feel better in the moment.
Playfulness may also make you more attractive.
Researcher Gary Chick proposed that playfulness in adults may be a means of attracting the opposite sex. He found that males see playfulness in females as a sign of “youthfulness” and “health.” At the same time, females view playful males as “nonaggressive” and therefore more approachable. Both genders seem to find playfulness an attractive quality in each other. So if you are still debating about whether to enjoy a bit of fun, consider it preparation for your next date!
The good news is play can be simple. You don’t need to go to an amusement park or take a two-week vacation to get your essential “playtime.” The key aspects of play are enjoyment, spontaneity, and a sense of fun! In that sense, play can be almost anything as long as you have fun doing it. Think of those ordinary blocks that became something extraordinary when you played with them as a kid. The same can be true of a walk around the neighborhood or a visit to your local bookstore. Whether you want to reduce your stress or attract a special someone, take time each week for some fun!
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