“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw.
You know those moments when you completely let go, you’re 100% your goofy self, with no cares in the world? Maybe you’re dancing around the supermarket to a good song, or lying around in the grass, or singing at the top of your lungs. Mucking around feels good, right? And who knows best? Kids. Little kids run around all day covered in food, dirt, and a big fat smile. Because play is all they want to do. It’s time we take a leaf out of their book and get back to that inner kid we all have inside of us.
Why do we need play?
Life is full on. Because of this play can often be perceived as a waste of time or selfish in our modern society. But, rather the opposite. Not only does play bring joy, which enhances a lot of other things in the process, it also aids us in becoming better at problem solving, creativity, as well as helping us be better in relationships.
Countless studies have been done, looking into just how play can impact our lives. One study looked at prisoners who experienced a lack of play. It was found that they were more likely to commit crimes compared to those who did play. On the flip side, a study into couples demonstrated that play allows for deeper forms of emotional intimacy. Intimacy over crime, every time.
Play is also known to relieve stress by releasing those feel good hormones in the brain. It is mindful action without even trying, and we know there are countless benefits of being more mindful and present in everyday life. If that’s not enough, it keeps us feeling young, alive, and light. And who doesn’t want to be all of those things.
What is this ‘play’ we speak of?
Author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD says play can be anything from art, books, movies, music, comedy, flirting, or even daydreaming. He went on to say that it’s a state of being – one that is without purpose but results in fun and pleasure. The goal is the experience not the results.
While play can be different for everyone, it’s about finding that thing you do because it brings you joy, in the moment, not because it’s going to help you accomplish anything else.
How can we put it into action today?
Play can be a range of things and as we said will be different for everything. Try a few of these things and see how they feel.
Dance around the room with the music blaring, eyes closed.
Take the dog to the park or backyard and just play with them, throw the stick, wrestle, chat to them, cuddle the sh*t out of them.
Knit, colour, draw, paint. Get creating. Use colour. Who cares what it looks like.
Read aloud to a close friend or loved one.
Practice a few yoga poses at home that are hard and you know you’ll fall out of. And laugh all the way down.
Go for a walk in nature without your phone.
Throw a ball, play a game of chess, twister, anything.
And one of the easiest ways to play is to play with kids. They’re experts. Follow their lead and you’ll do just fine.