I met a friend for coffee a few weeks ago and found myself grumbling about how stale I was feeling. She responded by asking me ‘How often do you have fun and play?’ Her question surprised me – after all I barely have enough time each day to get through my list of ‘to do’ things. I immediately shifted the conversation onto a more comfortable topic but over the next few days I couldn’t shake the idea that my staleness was linked to the lack of fun and play in my life.
We all know that play is how children learn the life-skills they’ll need to be successful in the grown up world and by the time we reach adulthood, its time to work hard, to focus on our careers and start getting ahead in life. Being available online 24/7 is a fact of life now so that even when we’re on holiday, checking work emails and perhaps doing a few hours of work has to be squeezed in somewhere during the day. After all, hard work, efficiency, productivity is how we win at life, isn’t it? Wrong!!!!
It turns out that our emphasis on work rather than play isn’t that great for us. World famous author and psychiatrist, Dr Stuart Brown has spent his life researching the importance of play in all sorts of people including prisoners, business people, artists and Nobel Prize winners. Dr Brown has shown that play reduces stress and enables us to cope in difficult situations. In fact, Dr Brown believes that play is as essential to our well-being as sleep, so that when we don’t have play in our lives, we become cranky, stuck in a rut, stale and struggling to cope.
So what is play? Dr Brown says that the key to play is that it engages you, gives you pleasure and takes you out of your real time and place. Play is about experience, not about outcomes. In other words playing football with a group of mates on a Saturday afternoon is play, whereas playing professional football is not. Messing around with paints is play, but working as a professional artist is not.
Play is something you do because you want to, not because you have to. So if your life is out of balance like mine often is, why don’t you follow these six steps to bring more fun and play into your life.
Step 1: Work out what play and having fun means for you. Because each person is unique, play is personal and individual. Play will be different for you than it is for me. Some people love cooking, whereas it’s a chore for me. Ask yourself:
Step 2: Set some ‘play and fun’ goals. Because your life is already full and busy, you need to prioritize play or it won’t happen. We create goals for everything else so if you’re serious about bringing more play into your life, you’re going to need to set some play goals? You could set daily goals such as doing the daily crossword or jamming on your guitar for 15 minutes each night. Weekly goals could include going dancing or attending an art class once a week, or spending two hours each week walking in a park or playing online chess.
Step 3: Bring fun into your everyday life. Our lives are full of daily, repetitive tasks that feel like drudgery and hard work. With a little imagination and creativity, you can break the staleness that often comes with sameness and monotony.
Step 4: Create a play box or cupboard. It’s much easier to play when you have instant access to play things you enjoy using. Create a place in which you can ‘stockpile’ fun things to do such as:
Step 5: Spend time with fun people. The best way to learn any new skill is to spend time with people who are already doing the things those things. If you need to relax and laugh more or be more willing to play, find the people who already live that way. At work get to know the person who focuses on the funny side of life no matter how difficult things are going or join your work social committee. Hang out more often with those friends who ‘just want to have fun.’
Step 6: Play with children. Kids love having fun and playing so if you have children, nephews or nieces or grandchildren, spend some time goofing off with them. Kids love anything a bit crazy, like listening to stories in a tent made of blankets thrown over chairs, eating outside instead of inside, hopping instead of dancing to music, or creating an imaginary world using dolls, pillows, LEGO, playing cards laid out to create the walls of a house or finger puppets.
Spending time playing and having fun goes against everything our materialistic, efficient, success-driven culture focuses on, but I believe that each one of us is worse off because of that. For too long, play hasn’t been a priority in my life, but that is about to change, even though I know making those changes is going to be challenging.
How about you? Are you feeling stale?
Why don’t you join me and see if having more fun and play will make a difference.
What is your favorite play activity? I’d love to hear what you think about playing more? Is it something you need to bring more of into your life?
Image by tigris777