There is a really strange notion that we were all taught while growing up, that play ends at adulthood. At a certain stage in our lives, we put away the toys and get out the books, but adults need to play too.
New responsibilities arise that keep us so busy that there is no longer time left to play.
Many adults scoff when they see another adult acting goofy and playful. Sadly, they may even be scorned for being lazy or irresponsible. We know that play is a vital part of a child’s development but have forgotten that it is essential to an adult’s well-being as well.
Play is actually just as important to our overall well-being as any other daily activity.
Doing the same mundane things each and every day, going through the stresses of work, maintaining your home, and caring for your family without allowing yourself the time to play does a disservice not only to yourself but to those around you.
Playing leads to smiles and laughter. Have you ever looked at someone when they are genuinely smiling? Have you noticed how vibrant and youthful they appear at that moment?
Taking the time to be playful, filling moments of your day with the positive energy associated with play, can radiate a youthfulness from you that you may have forgotten you have.
Play can not only help you to look younger but feel younger as well. Studies have shown that playing stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex and can improve memory. Play can also trigger the secretion of BDNF. This is a substance necessary for brain cell growth.
Play is a natural stress reliever. It’s ironic that at a point in our lives when we need to play the most, we play the least.
We have this tendency to push ourselves day after day, working, taking care of our kids, going to meetings and appointments, and simply trying to make ends meet that we forget about ourselves.
This stress can build up in our bodies and minds, leading to many negative side effects.
Studies have shown that play releases endorphins, a chemical that is produced naturally by the nervous system. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body and can help to relieve stress and depression.
Endorphins also act as a pain reliever. Next time you have a headache, consider playing a good old-fashioned game of hide and seek or hopscotch with the kids!
The first step to learning how to play again is to change how you think about it. Forget the stereotype that play is only for childhood. Play is important to all ages and it serves as an important role in our daily lives.
Play comes in many forms. It does not mean you have to run around outside in a sprinkler (although, that can be quite fun). It can be some of the simple things in life that are often overlooked. Have a conversation with your cat.
Blow bubbles for your dog. Put on your favorite music and get creative with a coloring book (they actually make these for adults now). Go on, give yourself permission to play!
There are many forms of play that you can take a part in, each resulting in different outcomes to your well-being. Rough-and-tumble play such as sports activities develops emotional regulation and mastery.
Ritual play that is structured with set rules, such as board games, brings people together with a common goal and requires you to engage and strategize. Imaginative play such as painting, crafting, and storytelling can take you into a world guided only by your imagination.
Object play involves anything having to do with building and designing. Remember snow forts and Lego castles? This type of play is a great stress reliever and involves a lot of laughter.
There are many ways to lead a natural and holistic lifestyle. Adding some play-time to your daily routine is just one way to enrich your life and give it the healthy balance it deserves.
Dig deep within yourself and find the kid in you once again. You know they are in there somewhere. Allow yourself the time to be a child at heart again and play like you mean it. You’ll be happy that you did. Literally.
You can find much more information on living a holistic lifestyle in these free magazines and on our YouTube channel.
Arthur is chief editor at Muddy Smiles, a resource to inspire play for the young – and the young at heart! There he writes about everything from muddy play to play doh.