By Paul Hunter
So, what happened? When did it go away? You used to play, didn’t you? Really, when did it stop? As adults we are quickly led to the world of responsibilities, chores and non-thinking routines. That sounds like a blast, doesn’t it? If you were told you could play no longer if you wanted to be an adult, kids, in their right mind, would think that is absolute nonsense. I have this quote as part of the screen background on my computer:
“The greatest gift you can give your kids is to be fully alive yourself.” ~Rob Bell
Can you imagine? Fully alive? What does it look like for you? Do you still dream? When is the last time you did not think about your daily routine or a customer?
Play is essential to so many things in our life, yet it is so easily lost. The benefits of play are endless and can roll over into areas of our daily routine to take away the mundane and add some zest, make us more attractive. Play can:
Improve our relationships and connection to others: Sharing laughter and fun can build empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help us loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
Stimulate the mind and boost creativity: Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well. We learn new tasks better when it’s fun and we are in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate our imagination, helping us adapt and problem solve.
Improve brain function (who doesn’t need this?): Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
Relieve stress: Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Keep you feeling young and energetic: In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost energy and vitality and even improve resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.
Be helpful in healing emotional wounds: As adults, when we play together, we are engaging in exactly the same patterns of behavior that positively shape the brains of children. These same playful behaviors that predict emotional health in children can also lead to positive changes in adults. If an emotionally-insecure individual plays with a secure partner, for example, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions.
Teach cooperation with others: Play is a powerful stimulant for positive socialization. Through play, children learn how to "play nicely" with others—to work together, follow mutually-agreed-upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, we can continue to use play to break down barriers and improve our relationships with others.
With all of these benefits, we need to remember to balance our days and lives, recognizing the importance of play and how it can fully integrate with our daily responsibilities, duties and commitments and be the catalyst towards making us more effective adults.