I am writing this blog as much for me as anyone else. (However the secret is that is the case with most of my blogs!!) As a child, play is natural. We can take anything and make it playful. A stick, a piece of snow, 15 minutes between scheduled activities at school, and even a booger (ewwww). Somewhere along the way from babyland to adulthood, we seem to “learn” that playing becomes outdated to our new level of maturity, and it is a waste of time. I certainly find myself having these thoughts often. I can’t pin point a single source where they came from but I’m sure it is a combination of many things- a proud family heritage of “hard work”, successful parents who were always “working” on some level (whether working at a career or around the house), society’s messages that hard work pays off, finding success in my own life through my own hard work, and the list goes on. I’ve drank the kool-aid, whether I want to admit it or not. “Playing just detracts from getting things done.”
The Myth of Adult Play
The challenge is that holding to this belief about play really isn’t helpful or truthful. Play actually does have a place in adulthood that bring balance, creativity, and rejuvenation. The research of Dr. Stuart Brown demonstrates that play shapes our brain, fosters empathy, helps us navigate social relationships, and is instrumental to creativity and innovation. When there is a lack of play, we are dangerously at risk for burnout, depression and anxiety. Those are not good dynamics for any part of your life.
The Result of Lack of Play
Interestingly, Dr. Stuart Brown says, “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression”. So if you’re finding yourself all work and no play, not only does that make Jack a dull boy, but it will lead him to depression and maybe even so far as suicide. You might feel that’s a bit extreme, but it is quite the logical conclusion that I have the position of seeing in people’s lives on a daily basis.
Your challenge today (and this challenge is 100% for me too!!), is to intentionally take at least 30 minutes to play. You might be so far removed from a discipline of play that you aren’t even sure what that would look like! Take 2 minutes right now to think about the things you’ve enjoyed doing in your life. They weren’t “productive” but they were enjoyable. When I reflect on my own life, it would be things like: taking a walk around the neighborhood with my children, painting, jewelry-making, riding bike, playing Rummikub with my kids, baking along side my husband, building random structures out of legos, or completing a Sudoku puzzle. So now, take 2 minutes for yourself to identify a list of things that are playful to you and carve out 30 minutes today to play. It just may save your life, your job, your family, and your marriage.