Posted by: Suzan | February 22, 2019

Play is Serious Business

Play is serious business for children and adults−synonymous with breathing to keeping us alive, although our society tends to downplay it. Since it’s “unproductive” with no tangible results, adults may neglect it. According to the Author of Play and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, play is on par with oxygen, “it’s all around us, yet mostly goes unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”

What’s the big deal about play? For children it’s vital for brain development and healthy connection. For adults play helps to build community, keep our minds sharp and also, maintain healthy relationships, especially with our significant others. According to Dr. Brown, when adults are play deprived they are no longer much fun to be around. Play is fundamental to experiencing joy. Without it we risk becoming dull. This is a considerable consequence.

What does it mean to play? It’s difficult to define because it’s a process, not an end result. Brown calls it a state of being of timelessness and purposeless fun and pleasure. It’s all consuming and vital to our well-being, as important to our health as sleep or nutrition. Brown also believes that the opposite of play is not work, he suggests it’s depression. His book argues that play is also a critical element for the workplace because it encourages creativity, innovation, and mastery. Creative teambuilding exercises are an example of how organizations can enhance productivity and innovation through the play state.

What are some ideas for play? Brown emphasizes it isn’t so much the activity as the spirit of fun you bring to it. It’s more about getting lost in what you’re doing out of sheer joy. Play can be gathering around a board game (e.g. Scrabble) where winning or losing is secondary to having fun; or making snow angels or snow men or women; sledding; bike riding; going to a comedy show, theater or a concert; playing a sport with a team (e.g. soccer) or going to sport’s event; dabbling with colored pencils and a coloring book; and it is often spontaneous. It can happen when you’re not expecting it–a playful outburst leading you to laugh yourself silly with a group of friends and/or family members. What matters most is to surrender to this nurturing play state. Engage in some form of play day-to-day.

So how can you play with more abandon? Psych Central’s Margarita Tartakovsky, Associate Editor, recommends the following:

  1. Change how you think about Play (as in give it the importance it deserves). It’s crucial for our well-being that we find some time to play every day. Give ourselves permission to play for the sake of our creativity and our relationships!
  2. Write a play history (or timeline) of your past relationship with play. What did you love to do as a child? Is there a way you can reignite that joy today? For example, as a child I loved to line up my dolls as if they were my audience and perform for them. I’d act out the television shows I watched; and sometimes I’d even teach them what I learned in school. I think they preferred the entertainment. As an adult when I’m performing and connecting with an audience (acting, leading workshops, speaking, etc.) I feel the greatest joy. It’s total play for me.
  3. Surround yourself with Playful People. Seek out friendships with people who make you laugh and have a playful nature. Then you can bring this fun way of being to your other key relationships. If you don’t know any playful people, enroll in an improv or acting class. You will find them there.
  4. Spend time with children. If you have kids or grandkids, hang out with them. They are the best teachers on play! They are so curious and all about indulging full on with play – they don’t hold back. If you don’t have grandkids then schedule a play date with your friend’s (or family member’s) kids or grandkids.  


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