On social media last week I shared a playful interaction I had with a stranger in a parking lot. A comment I got under that post, stopped me in my tracks.
“I need ‘fun’ lessons! Play was frowned upon in my family of origin.”
Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this.
Some people were explicitly taught not to play as children.
They heard “Knock it off!” and “Stop messin’ around!”
Others had the freedom to play as children, but as adults, the stress of life’s responsibilities overwhelm them to the point where they spend every moment“working”. Either physically working at a job or in the home, or mentally engaged in the battle of worrying about the past and future, leaving no room for spontaneity, creativity, or connection.
Regardless if you’re Type 1 or Type 2 Play Deficient,
Step 1: Make a list of the ways you played as a child that no one every taught you to do. Things like skipping stones, building forts, playing house, and drawing.
Step 2: How can some of these can be brought into your life again? Some you can still do without feeling like a childish-weirdo, like skipping stones. Others, may need an upgrade.
Building a fort out of the couch cushions feel odd to do by yourself, but would it be fun to do with a child, grand-child, or niece?
Or does it sound enticing to translate this idea of shelter building into a camping trip?
Maybe imaginary play wouldn't feel genuine, but what about an improv class? Or writing a short story?
Principles of Play
*Play, whether in a single moment or a full day, is for the sake of pleasure, not focused on a specific outcome.
*It can be physical and or in the mind. Energetic or calm. By yourself or with others.
*What feels like play to someone else, may not feel like play to you. Don’t judge or compare your chosen play modalities; that’s a guaranteed killjoy.
*Play requires vulnerability. When you were a kid, you didn’t care about looking silly. But maybe, along the way you learned that adulting is about being composed and in control at all times. If this is you, can you allow yourself to be drop the shield by just 25%? I’m not suggesting you pretend to be someone you’re not, just be a little freer with experiencing the unfiltered you.
“If you want to be creative, stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.”
Benefits of Play
*Play in childhood is necessary for developing empathy, resiliency, and learning who we are in the world.
*Playing as adults is just as important. It decreases stress, facilitates connection to others, boosts creativity and problem solving. It also engages our brain in a way that decreases our chances of developing Alzheimers.
I challenge you to engage is a single act this week, that is just for pure nonsensical enjoyment. Now go forth and have fun!