It’s Play Time!

A ferris wheel against a pastel sunset sky.

We all instinctively understand the importance of play for children and pets. Young kids learn about the world, develop social skills and expand their imaginations through play. We wouldn’t dream of depriving them of play. 

We also make sure our furry friends have opportunities to engage in play. We buy them toys and take them on walks because we know these activities are critical to keeping them physically strong and staving off boredom. 

But what about us adults? When was the last time you spent an afternoon engaging in a playful activity, such as doodling, playing board games, or dancing in your kitchen? If you can’t remember, it’s time to schedule a play date with yourself.

Why? It’s one of the best things you can do to improve your well-being. Numerous studies link play for adults to a wide range of benefits including improved mental health, lower stress levels, and better physical health. In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown argues, “Play doesn’t just help us explore what is essential, it is essential in itself.”

Inspired in part by listening to McKeown’s book, I have been purposeful about spending more time playing this year. This renewed focus on playtime is bringing more joy to my life. I’ve incorporated more play into my life by taking short, spontaneous breaks during the work day, playing games on my phone every morning, and exploring nearby places with my family.  

“Play doesn’t just help us explore what is essential, it is essential in itself.”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism
A purple iris bud covered in rain drops.

One of my most recent playful moments occurred on a rainy holiday. It had been sunny and beautiful all week leading up to our day off, yet when the holiday arrived, we were awakened by the sounds of pouring rain and news of flash flood watches.

Instead of feeling trapped inside, I grabbed my rain boots and my cell phone and headed outside, where I was captivated by the raindrops clinging to the delicate buds and petals of the lavender irises growing in our yard.

By incorporating more playful moments in my life, I feel less stressed, more creative, and better equipped to solve problems. It has helped me recapture the sense of wonder and curiosity I experienced as a child. My photography has also improved as a result of the increased explorations and enhanced creativity.

Still not convinced or not sure what constitutes play? The National Institute for Play can help you understand more about the benefits of play for adults.

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