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Why it’s Essential for Grown-ups to Play

play photoWe don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” ~ George Bernard

Play is just as important for adults as it is for children. Grown-up lives entail endless responsibilities. Work demands, family obligations, kids’ activities, etc. inundate our lives with schedules, deadlines, and tasks. The last thing we want to do is add something to our to-do list.

Nonetheless play deprivation has costly effects. Our lives become dull and laborious. Joy in work decreases and perseverance looses it strength. We become overrun with stress, depression, illness, angry outbursts, and loneliness.

Play is worth the daily investment. The time involved to let loose makes your life more efficient, easy-going, and fun.

Adults play in many ways. A competitive game of blackjack is a form of play. Singing to your favorite tune or creating your own little ditty is a form of play. Drawing, gardening, playing with Play-Doh, jumping on a mini-trampoline, yes all forms of play.

The commonalities amongst these activities is that the action is self-driven, self-chosen, and focused on the process not the end result or product. An example is gambling.  A zealous game of poker changes from play to addiction when the goal is to hit the jackpot and not just enjoy the process of playing cards.

Adults acquire similar valuable skills as children when they play. Youngsters gain cognitive, social, physical, and emotional well-being from recreation. Recess for children helps with resiliency, brain development, empathy, communication skills, and the ability to go with the flow. Here are ten ways adults benefit from play.

  1. Stress Reliever

The soccer star, David Beckman builds Lego lands to control his anxiety and relieve stress.


Ellen DeGeneres uses jokes and pranks for laughter and fun. Laughter is one of the best remedies for stress and letting go of any tension. http://peopleschoice.com/2016/03/31/ellen-degeneres-best-celebrity-pranks/

  1. Therapeutic

Richard Hammond, the former Top Gear host played with Lego models after his near-death 300mph jet car crash in 2006. Hammond revealed his play aided in his recovery and his traumatic brain injury.

Professor Lynn Barnett from the Department of Recreation, Sports, and Tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says play is therapeutic at work and at home. Research supports play enhances productivity, increases job satisfaction and augments learning. At home, playing together enriches bonding and communication.

  1. Pleasure and Sense of Engagement

Play instills focused concentration, offers an experience free from concern of time and place, and liberates expectations from the outcome and allows enjoyment of the process.

  1. Problem Solving

When we engage with others in a playful manner we are forced in a non-threatening way to compromise, resolve, and communicate new ideas. Playtime for adults builds corporation, social skills, and keeps the peace in a dominant driven society.

  1. Improves Coping Skills

A 2013 study by Cale D. Manuson and Lynn A. Barnett at the University of Illnois at Urbana-Champaign concluded that playful participants perceived stress in lower levels than their less playful buddies. Their research found playfulness provides specific cognitive assets that enables effective coping behaviors during times of stress.

  1. Attracts Potential Romance

Playful adults make for more attractive partners. At Pennsylvania State University, researchers conducted a survey of characteristics students look for in a long-term partner. Results indicated males look for sense of humor as their number one choice in a partner. For females sense of humor came in second, then fun loving, and then playful. Playful rated fifth and fun loving presented as third choice for male counterparts.

Playfulness roots back to evolution. It signals non-aggressiveness, an attraction for males because it symbolizes less harm to a mate or offspring. Playfulness also hints fertility and youth.

  1. Improves Mood

Play is essential to our well-being. Face it playing is fun. More fun equals less depression and anxiety.

  1. Lowers Risks for Degenerative Brain Disease

Numerous studies support that playing board games or completing puzzles maintains cognition and memory. Play keeps the mind sharp.

  1. Keeps Partnerships Healthy

Play holds the ones you love close. Couples who tend to be silly and playful manage any disagreements or hiccups in life better than couples that don’t maintain a sense of playfulness.

  1. Intuition

Playing in nature, moving your body, singing, painting all enlivens your imagination. Freeing your mind, paying attention, and listening to your gut instinct allows you to learn the lesson before it turns into crazy making. Play puts you in the moment to listen to your intuition and guides you to where you need to be.


Don’t fret if you are not playful. Playfulness can be learned. Just as introverts can learn to become wonderful public speakers by watching the techniques of outgoing extroverts, you can learn various ways to play.

There are those like Ellen DeGeneres who outwardly fool around with her audience, colleagues, friends, and relatives. There are those like Hammond, largely lighthearted and engrossed in the process and not by the future or outcome; those who play with their imagination, thoughts and ideas; and those who are whimsical, parading curiosity in strange and unusual things and are amused by small, ordinary observations.

Find your source of play, you will soon see positive impacts at work, witness stronger relationships, and feel happier, attuned, and alive.

Why it’s Essential for Grown-ups to Play


As a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC #96155) residing in Los Angeles, I offer a safe and comfortable environment for individuals, couples, and groups to heal from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and neglect; anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and adapt easily through life’s many transitions. We meet weekly for 50 minutes in a non-judging environment in West Los Angeles, or via Skype or FaceTime. We work together to determine your goals, assess your needs, and create a healing plan. Mindfulness, ACA tools, and nurturing support in the here and now are part of my approach to unleash critical thoughts, destructive beliefs, and assist in helping in reparenting the child within. I welcome you to contact me at [email protected] l will contact you within 24 hours of receiving your email.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). Why it’s Essential for Grown-ups to Play. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 24, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/mind-body-soul/2017/08/why-its-essential-for-adults-to-play/


Last updated: 7 Aug 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Aug 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.