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The Serious Benefits Of Play (And How To Invite Some Into Your Life)

This sign in the photo – “PLAY” – is at a local park near a children’s play area.

I love its whimsy. There’s something wonderful about a street sign that’s about as anti-stop-sign as you can get. A sign that’s green for a start, and that insists on such a fabulous pursuit.

So when was the last time you played?

Or are you too serious – too grownup – for that?

(And, if so, what might you be missing out on?)

Play is such a pivotal part of the world for so many children. And its value is now being recognised and legitimised by neuroscience in terms of how it has so much to teach (and how it manages that so organically):

  • Stuff about socialising and negotiating
  • About expanding imagination and possibilities
  • About exploring and attempting things
  • About joy…

Yet it seems there’s not much space for it once you hit adulthood…

Instead, we’re usually allowed a very different kind of play – or not much at all. For play often turns earnest for adults – it develops a bit of a scowl and gets focused on goals and outcomes.

So your leisure time – what little there is – becomes about something with purpose:

  • Maybe it’s time for hobbies (to create impressive projects)
  • Or for more formal kinds of learning in more academic ways
  • Or for reading books you “should” or that are work-related
  • Or for “networking”
  • Or practicing something until it’s perfect.

But what about play?

Something spontaneous that has no further goals than just itself. Something that unfolds in the moment and isn’t supposed to last forever. That is its own meaning. And fun. (Maybe even “silly fun”.)

How long is it since you invited some of that back into your life?
(And I say “back” in because once upon a time you were probably an expert at it.)

And what might happen if you did?

Which parts of you might come alive again that have maybe spent the last while gathering dust and trapped in suspended animation? Which parts of you might get to breathe again?

And what actually comes to mind if you take off your serious adult spectacles for a moment and contemplate something more frivolous?

How could you play?


Photo and text copyright: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.



The Serious Benefits Of Play (And How To Invite Some Into Your Life)

Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar

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APA Reference
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2019). The Serious Benefits Of Play (And How To Invite Some Into Your Life). Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2019
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