play

Play. It’s something we adults don’t do enough of.

It’s Friday and sometimes it’s good to take a day off from work, not because of illness but for the sake of your wellness. Call it a mental health day, call it a wellness day, call it a me day. The name of the day doesn’t matter, but the spirit of it does. And if it has been many months since you’ve taken a vacation day, your brain and body probably need a day off more than you think they do. Back in January, I wrote 10 Tips for Low-to-No-Cost Self-Care. A day away from the office or your practice and away from your work e-mail and phone is a good time to try some of those tips.

As writes, “Play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for kids.” Play is what stimulates creativity, it helps us connect with others and it helps us maintain our social well-being.  Play also helps stimulate our minds, and playing with a partner may stimulate our relationship. Play also reduces stress and contributes to overall well-being. Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play told NPR, “What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around. You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.”

So how do we guard against becoming not much fun to be around and having life and work feeling laborious? First, we take a day off here and there without feeling guilty.

And then, we figure out what kind of play works best for us (if we don’t already know). Many of us have focused on work and on helping others for so long that we’ve forgotten what used to make us laugh and feel lighter. Martha Beck wrote in her book Steering by Starlight that what appealed to us as children often would appeal to us as adults, if only we’d let our adult selves do that thing. For me, it was climbing trees. When I was a child, I loved to climb trees. And often I’d climb a tree and sit in it for more than hour reading a book and listening to the birds chirp around me and watching nature. I never stopped paying attention to the birds and nature as I aged, but somewhere along the way I stopped climbing trees. So about ten years ago, I started again, without a thought to how silly it may make me look or if others with me want to climb. Climbing a tree makes me feel good and it brings me back to my childhood and to a happy place.

Soccer star David Beckham relieves stress by playing with Legos. He also finds playing games like Connect 4 with his kids and cooking both anxiety-relieving and therapeutic. And anyone who has watched or read about Ellen Degeneres knows that her favorite form of play is playing pranks on guests. For other people, playful activity may be Rollerblading, participating in a sport, bringing creativity into sex, or battling aliens or armies in a video game.

Other ways to play can include:

  • Engage in a new hobby
  • Take a class that seems like fun (For these first two bullets, sites like Groupon and LivingSocial can make these endeavors inexpensive. For trials at play through discounted lessons, I have learned that beekeeping is a whole lotta work, that I don’t like glass-blowing, but I love photography, and that piloting a small plane feels a lot slower than driving a fast car.)
  • Walk an animal or throw a ball or a Frisbee for a dog. Or volunteer to be a bunny buddy at your local rescue place.
  • Challenge yourself to find as many insects or birds or flowers or whatever you like during a walk.
  • Play a board game. Or host a board game marathon where every person brings a game and all of the games get played.
  • Put on music and boogie around your space.
  • Go bowling if you don’t usually.
  • Play catch.
  • Play hide and seek.
  • Sing karaoke either at a club or in a car like James Corden.
  • Visit an amusement park.
  • Go for a hike in the woods.
  • Or find some sand in which to sink your toes.
  • Go miniature golfing.
  • Play old-school video games or arcade games. Or if you don’t have access to those, download the Pac-Man app.
  • Do something spontaneous.
  • Plan a themed party with friends.
  • Run around and play tag in a park.
  • Host a water balloon fight.
  • Learn to do something really big: like rock climbing or ethnic cooking or stand-up paddle board yoga.

This list may help jump start your creativity in determining the best ways for you to take a break from work and get in touch with your playful side. De-stress, relax, let go, and be healthy on this Friday and every day.