Play is an essential part of life, a primeval activity for all mammals that teaches us how to be resilient. Play is possibly best defined as something we do purely because of the fun and joy it gives us.
A natural childhood activity?
Children instinctively know how to play although perhaps nowadays they may be more likely to play with technology than to kick a ball or play tag in the street. Play teaches children how to stick to rules, understand boundaries, be empathetic and naturally resilient to bumps and tumbles.
There is a fine line between being teased and bullied, not being a first choice in a team and excluded but some of these hard lessons help us to be resilient in our adulthood. A child who never faces physical or emotional challenges will never learn how to be resilient. Play teaches us much more than we may realise. In fact, research of murderers in a Texan prison found that the absence of childhood play was as important as any other factor in predicting their crime!
A ‘NOW’ experience
When we are involved in playful activity, we let go of the cares and worries of the world and live in the moment. If you struggle to meditate or practise mindfulness exercises, why not consider getting involved in a playful activity? First, you may have to rid yourself of the idea of ‘child’s play’, adults can and should play too.
Play is a state of mind
You can have a playful approach to many activities, it’s more about how you feel than what you do. Being able to laugh at your mistakes and take yourself less seriously is a first step towards becoming a more playful type of person. Whether you bring play into your personal relationships, at work or with your pet, you will benefit from some time off from being ‘sensible’ you.
Play and laughter
Do you remember the squeals and shrieks of being chased in the playground? The exhilaration of playing rounders, or football? It doesn’t change when you get older, it’s just that you probably change and you no longer do it!
Play is not competitive!
One of the problems of adults playing is that there is a tendency to make play competitive and serious. You may find being a beginner at a sport or activity much more fun than when you become more concerned with being the best.
George Bernard Shaw said
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Regular play can keep you feeling young in body and mind and boost your immune system to keep you healthy.
In 2012 I wrote a book about the power of laughter to improve our physical, emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. I also started a laughter club where participants meet regularly to practise unconditional laughter (based on exercises that do not rely on humour or comedy). Introducing playful activities always creates spontaneous laughter. Over the last 7 years, we have discovered that the joy of participating in childhood games such as pass the parcel, musical chairs and tag, are great fun at any age. In fact, perhaps we appreciate them more as adults escaping from the pressures and stress of daily life than our younger selves ever did.
If you want to get in touch with your playful inner child, try skipping instead of walking. I guarantee that within 30 seconds you will feel younger and lighter in spirit, plus it’s great exercise. Here is a photo of me (in the middle) with two of my friends testing this theory – it worked!
What do you do to feel playful? Please share.