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Body Image Booster: Play!

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Every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit that helps boost your body image, whether directly or indirectly — and hopefully kick-starts the week on a positive note!

Got a tip for improving body image? Email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com, and I’ll be happy to feature it. I’d love to hear from you!

You might’ve heard this saying from Brian Sutton-Smith before: “The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.”

I’d extend this to a negative body image. A negative body image is being stuck in a self-critical cycle. It’s exaggerating the significance of appearance and weight in your life. It’s living in your head — maybe with a bruised heart — surrounded by shoulds.

Last November I wrote a piece on the importance of play for adults. Play may seem insignificant or something exclusively for kids. But play actually has serious and meaningful benefits for adults.

Specifically, play is purposeless and pleasurable. According to Scott Eberle, it’s a process that begins in anticipation and hopefully ends in poise. “In between you find surprise, pleasure, understanding — as skill and empathy — and strength of mind, body, and spirit.”

It can be any activity that you find playful: writing, riding your bike, playing a board game, drawing, daydreaming, dancing.

Play gives us joy and connects us to others. It also steers us away from nitpicking and negative thinking.

Instead of immersing ourselves in self-criticism, shoulds and self-doubt, we get out of our heads and way. And we immerse ourselves in activities that are interesting, exciting, fun.

We become rejuvenated and energized, not defeated and depleted.

Play helps us remember the magic of our worlds. It helps us slow down and savor the smallest details. In other words, it gives us perspective and the ability to be present.

How to Play

These are the expert tips I featured in my article:

Change how you think about play. Remember that play is important for all aspects of our lives, including creativity and relationships. Give yourself permission to play every day. For instance, play can mean talking to your dog. “I[‘d] ask my dog Charlie, regularly, his opinion of the presidential candidates. He respond[ed] with a lifted ear and an upturning vocalization that goes ‘haruum?’” Eberle said.

Play can be reading aloud to your partner, he said. “Some playful writers are made to be read aloud: Dylan Thomas, Art Buchwald, Carl Hiaasen, S.J. Perelman, Richard Feynman, Frank McCourt.”

Take a play history. In his book, Play, Stuart Brown includes a primer to help readers reconnect with play. He suggests readers mine their past for play memories. What did you do as a child that excited you? Did you engage in those activities alone or with others? Or both? How can you recreate that today?

Surround yourself with playful people. Both Brown and Bowen White stressed the importance of selecting friends who are playful – and of playing with your loved ones.

Play with little ones. Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through their perspective. White and Brown both talked about playing around with their grandkids.

Consider what play means to you. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What are your favorite playful activities?

Make a list of these activities, and add them to your life. Ask your favorite people to join you.

Play is never a waste. In fact, Stuart Brown writes in his book, “Play is the purest expression of love.”

I believe this is a love we can give to ourselves and others.

How will you play today? 

Body Image Booster: Play!

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2013). Body Image Booster: Play!. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Oct 2013
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