Do you remember what it was like to get home from school and run outside to play with your friends until the sun went down? Building forts, riding bikes, kickball in the streets, and exploring the neighborhood. Just sit with that memory for a moment and notice how it makes you feel. Chances are it made you happy, calm, and focused. As a child, play exposed you to new experiences, (hopefully) tons of Vitamin D, and helped increase your creativity, problem solving skills, and friendships. It prepared you to be a kick ass adult and is an essential piece of social development. Somewhere along the way we lose this playful spirit. Life takes over, responsibilities get in the way, and we start “adulting” all the time. When we do take the time to do something fun, some of us even feel guilt, like play for adults is unproductive and petty.
Every human behavior fills a need, it serves a purpose. Play for adults fills a need for novelty and pleasure. It brings us joy, it helps us to problem solve, ups our creativity, and increases our overall health and wellbeing. Play helps to form neural connections in the brain that broaden our abilities and let us build on our successes.
Play for Adults: What Is It?
Play is difficult to define because it has no boundaries. It’s a process, an experience, and ultimately has no purpose other than giving us an enjoyable moment. It’s not focused on meeting a goal. Play is those moments when you are completely disconnected from your responsibilities and day to day stressors and emerged in fun, active, engaging, and novel activities.
Play for Adults: Why It’s Important
People deficient in play are at increased risk of stress related disease, mental health issues, and violence. That’s right, studies show that people without play are at increased risk of committing a violent crime. I’m not sure how far I’d read into that one, but it’s no surprise that we’d be less apt to commit an act of violence if our world was full of fun and playfulness. Play helps us to disconnect from our daily stressors and responsibilities, increasing mood, resiliency, and things like creativity and focus. Other benefits include stress relief, skill development, increased opportunities for social connection, enhanced problem solving skills, and better productivity at work. Play has even been correlated with better sleep habits, better weight management, improved metabolic markers, and increased immune functions. It’s also just plain fun and enjoyable, and who doesn’t want more of that?
How to Play More
Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to play. I’m insanely driven, so it’s easy to get caught in the work-work-work trap and neglect time to let lose and have fun, especially without that nagging feeling like I should be doing something else.
I recently began challenging myself on this front and made it a point to schedule in some play time. I have to sneak it in wherever I can, so for the most part I prioritize 20 minutes of time when I get home from my day job to do something playful. Gary and I will run outside for 20 minutes and throw a football around or make up a game of our own like when we were kids. He’s been sucked into this Pokemon craze, so lately we’ve been going on Pokemon hunts. We have tons of fun challenging each other to hockey skills battles and recently got into Primal Play that we learned from Daryl Edwards while at Paleo f(x). Whatever the play activity is that we choose, I always try to make sure it’s something that involves a lot of movement. I don’t particularly enjoy exercise so if I can disguise it with something fun it’s a win. It’s a double win if the play is outside so we can get some Vitamin D in too.
Here’s 40+ ways you can get more play in your life!
*For those of you with physical limitations and/or pain, do what you can. Focus on the creative activities, board games, and things that won’t push you too far.
- Find a new hobby
- Join a class
- Go to the park and jump into a pickup basketball game
- Play a sport
- Go bowling
- Play with your dog
- Build a fort
- Play hide and seek
- Play catch
- Try out for a play
- Play ultimate frisbee
- Take a 15 minute break at work to squeeze in a game with a coworker – tic tac toe, cards, or something similar.
- Keep a sketch book with you and take creative breaks throughout the week
- Do a 30 day photography challenge
- Find a penpal
- Go dancing
- Play with your children
- Host a game night
- Invite a friend to go out and play pool
- Go to a karaoke night
- Fly a kite
- Joke with a stranger while standing in line at the store
- Go to a magic, costume, or toy store
- Blow bubbles
- Complete an obstacle course run (aka play in the mud)
- Play in the rain
- Jump through a sprinkler
- Organize a community kickball game
- Have a snowball fight
- Have a family cooking challenge (think Chopped or Masterchef)
- Rent a canoe
- Have sex
- Learn to fish
- Go miniature golfing
- Create your own board game
- Organize a themed party (50’s, costume, drag, black & white, around the world potluck)
- Play hopscotch
- Relive your favorite childhood activity
- Go to a playground
- Go to an amusement park
- Go for a hike
- Plan a weekend getaway
- Do something spontaneous
- Build something – model rocket, legos, or that DIY chair you’ve been eyeing
- Plan a grand play outing – paddle boarding, rock climbing, surfing, try something new and go big.
- Play a lawn game
- Volunteer your time and go play board games with residents at a nursing home
- Have a water balloon fight
- Organize a dodge ball game
Challenge yourself to prioritize some play time in next week. Even if it’s only 20 minutes take some time to let loose and kick it like it’s 1990. Really let yourself enjoy the moments and disconnect from social media and/or your cell phone during your activity. Have fun seeking out new experiences and keep note of what it adds to your life.
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