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, as if play 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 who don't play enough 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, increases 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.
In the past I found it helpful to schedule in play time. Seems counterproductive, but my husband and I would carve out 20 minutes or so when we got home from work to mess around. Sometimes we would go throw around a football or invent a new sports game like we did as kids. For a while we were into Primal Play that we learned from Daryl Edwards while at Paleo f(x).
40+ WAYS TO GET YOUR PLAY ON
*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
Play with your dog
Build a fort
Play hide and seek
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
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
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
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)
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 you are a kid again. 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.