When we were children, didn’t it seem like an endless summer then? No time constraints to keep us from pursuing fun. Today you can get back–and move forward–to that blissful feeling, according to our professional life coach expert, Angie McCourt.
Our fast-paced world can have us feeling like a robot moving from task to task and decision to decision each day. It may feel like something is missing as we do everything we are supposed to do for our family, work, and others. Have we forgotten something on our busy life journey? Perhaps it was left in our childhood or adolescence? Maybe it was something we enjoyed about ourselves, such as how we learned and engaged with others. What about play? You may ask, are adults supposed to play, like children do? The answer is a resounding yes, and you can add it back into your adult life, starting here and now.
When we are engaged in playful activities, we stimulate our creative minds and increase our imagination, which helps us create new ideas, learn new skills, and problem solve. In fact, engaged play is thought to help increase happiness, align you with your deepest needs, and is a huge predictor of your wellbeing.
Studies show that play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex. Play reduces cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress, and releases endorphins (the good feeling hormone.) Play reduces burnout, stimulates the brain, boosts creativity and innovation, and increases productivity, social skills, and emotional wellbeing.
Let’s focus on creativity for a moment. Creativity is not only about being artistic. Everyone has a form of creativity. It’s all about how they access this resource. It includes solutions, ideas, or approaches that may otherwise be closed off. Play opens up creativity, so we can expand and grow.
Play doesn’t have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. When we approach challenges from a playful place, we can uncover creative solutions. Developing a carefree nature can be as simple as not taking ourselves or life too seriously.
If you find yourself limiting your playfulness, it’s possible that you’re self-conscious and concerned about how you’ll look and sound to others when attempting to be lighthearted. Or, it could be you have been in the habit of being serious all the time because you’ve been programmed to be serious as an adult. You can shift from this belief and state. Acknowledge these areas, find the deeper truth, and recognize others can feel the same way. You can start small and private in your play.
You might ask, so how am I supposed to play? What should I do? Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling (pun intended). Rediscover what your younger self enjoyed doing. This can take some recall of memories, putting yourself in your own little shoes, or envisioning your 10-year-old self playing and having fun. Host a regular game night with family or friends. Hit the mini-golf course (or standard golf course), bowling alley, etc. Keep in mind not to have an outcome or expectation of a result. Just play. Leave the competition at home.
Laughter is play. Find something that brings you laughter or simply laugh at yourself. The key here is to not take yourself or life too seriously. Play with children or pets. The key here is to be fully present. Leave your phone in the other room/car/home. Grab some paint or a pencil and create. No masterpiece is expected here. Just doodle, color, use Playdoh or knit. Schedule time outside at a park, beach, or other outdoor area doing an activity. Get physical with yoga, Pilates, dancing, acting, singing, biking, hiking, riding roller coasters, mountain climbing, surfing, and snorkeling. Play with the intention for you to have fun, not to prove anything. Create a new game. Who says you must play by someone else’s rules?
PUTTING PLAY TO WORK
- When you become stuck in a problem, project, solution, or decision…turn to play. A few laughs and time away from the situation can help open the mind to new creative solutions.
- Think of a challenge you currently have. Now think of it in a playful way. In your mind, create avatars of the people involved, have a conversation in a cartoon voice, or think of it from a child’s perspective. What would your 10-year-old self do?
- Schedule time for play without setting an outcome or result. Just be open to what comes up for you at that time, even if it’s only daydreaming.
Tapping into this side of yourself (brain, emotions, physical, hormonal) can create more flow in your life. This includes relationships, connections, deep replenishment, and cognitive function. Flow offers balance, ease, and sustainability. As you play, notice how your creativity opens. How can your curiosity and flexibility develop, and how do you loosen your grip on control and the need to force life to happen? In fact, life should always be as playful and enjoyable as possible.