What is play? It can be hard to define, but many people would say it’s engaging, absorbing activities which may or may not be goal-oriented. Play is usually something that gives you pleasant feelings, and is relaxing or invigorating.
What counts as play for you? For me, knitting, playing the guitar, training the dog, trying out my new-to-me treadmill, playing cards with my daughters, curling, and getting my hands in the dirt in the garden are all playful activities. I hope to add cycling and more dancing to the list soon!
Why is play important to our health?
It often involves social connection or creativity, activating neural pathways that enhance our wellbeing and even help regulate our immunity
Play that takes us into ‘the zone’ of focus and attention is both refreshing and relaxing.
It helps us develop skills we can transfer to other areas of life. For example, if I were a surgeon, building model ships or knitting intricate lace might help with motor skills and focus in surgery. Or painting might develop my creativity for problem solving in the OR. Of course, people often find that using the opposite sorts of skills from those needed at work is even more fun.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing increases our energy and vitality, and can challenge us cognitively in ways we don’t get at work. This can help with problem solving and finding new perspectives.
How can you get more play into your life, when you may be feeling exhausted and overworked?
It often doesn’t need to take time away from anything else- it may simply require a bit of mindset shift or reframing.
How could you turn a task into a playful task? For example, my beloved believes cooking is fun, instead of a daily chore. How could charting or other paperwork be more playful? Would it involve music, singing or dancing perhaps ;) , especially when it’s finished? How could you refresh the daily dog walk to be more fun? What about your interaction with colleagues- would a little humor lighten everyone’s day? If you have some ‘down’ time before bed, playing instead of consuming TV or social media could make a real difference in how you feel, sleep and wake up the next morning.
Share your ideas for incorporating more play into your life! Please leave a comment.