“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw
When was the last time you ran around the house with your kids, played Frisbee with your dog or splashed in a puddle after a rainfall? If you are like most adults, then it has probably been years since you did anything that resembles playing. Our hectic lives make it difficult to even entertain the thought of playing. All our focus is heavily oriented towards work and family commitments. And on the rare occasion that we are able to spare some time for leisure, we are more likely to spend it watching movies on Netflix, than engaging in playful activities like we did when we were kids. And that is exactly what the problem is – when we think of the word “play”, we immediately think of children. But what if playing was equally important in adulthood?
1. Play helps relieve stress
It does not seem like there is a shortage of reasons for us to be stressed every single day. While there are always stressors in our life that will result in stress, it is important for us to find activities to relieve some of this stress – one of these activities is playing. So, why is playing so effective in relieving stress? Running around playing tag, for example, will help release “feel-good hormones” called endorphins; they promote a sense of well-being and is even known to temporarily relieve pain. Besides causing the release of endorphins, playing is generally a fun and enjoyable activity that causes us to loosen up rigid mindsets.
Who knew playing could help us improve our relationships with other people and even help us make new friends? That probably explains why it is so easy for kids to make new friends. Playing with family members, friends and even co-workers can help us form tighter bonds with each other. Playing can also tighten the bond in romantic relationships because it can bring joy, affection, fun and vitality. Playing in groups also helps promote cooperation – remember this the next time you think about organizing a social event with your colleagues. Being a little playful can also help you be less nervous in stressful situations, such as breaking the ice when meeting a stranger.
3. Play boosts creativity
You would be surprised how creative you could become when you get back to doing things just for the fun of it. Just for amusement, without worrying about looking silly, or contemplating if you are doing something the right way. Think about children turning pieces of paper into aeroplanes or race cars. At that moment, they don’t see it as paper anymore. All they care about is seeing who has the fastest aeroplane. Just imagine if you could occasionally tap into the power of play, and stop being so rational and analytical – just letting your mind wander and enjoying the moment. After doing this for a while, you will realize that you have come up with more ideas; you have become more creative. These are some valuable lessons learned in life.
4. Play boosts productivity at work
Success at work mainly depends on our level of efficiency and productivity. And being efficient and productive mean doing as much quality work as possible during the shortest amount of time – and both are highly dependent on our well-being. All three benefits of play mentioned previously positively affect our well-being. Playing is one of the best ways to replenish ourselves, which can end up having a positive impact on our career. Whenever you have a difficult project to manage, instead of worrying about it all day long, just take a few minutes or hours to play and have fun. Allow your mind to wander. This can help you see the problem from a different perspective and come up with new and creative solutions.
We need to occasionally switch on our “play” mindset, and silence that “inner editor” that forces us to do what is perceived as rational. There are so many psychological benefits we can enjoy from having a play mentality. It’s about time we got back to the metaphoric playground and have some fun! This is one of the most valuable lessons learned in life.