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The Life-Enriching Value of Play

Have you heard the saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"? With origins sometime in the mid-1600’s, this often-repeated proverb has the same message of what we call “work/life balance” today. When you don’t take enough time off work, you can easily get caught up in the monotony of your daily routine and commitments. It’s important to include play in your life to enhance your life experiences, career, relationships, and overall well-being.

As children, we are encouraged to get out and play during recess or when we are at home on the weekends. Many parents even schedule “play dates” with their children to provide more socialization and encourage creativity. However, as we get older, we are funneled away from play and into the direction of more serious things. While being an adult requires certain commitments, there is still a lot of room and benefits to intentionally including play in our lives.

What Do We Mean by Play?

More recently, many people use the phrase “work hard, play hard” to describe winding down after a long week at work. While getting rowdy can be a type of play, it’s not exactly the definition we mean. According to Dr. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, play is something you do just because you want to do it. It brings you joy and keeps your mind off the clock. Play should be an act that you enjoy despite the outcome.

Why is Play Important for Adults?

While most adults find time to relax, they don’t spend enough time at play. It’s important to take time to relax too, but there are some benefits that only play can provide.

  • Feel More Youthful: Play is instilled in us at a young age. When adults play, it can help boost your energy and zest for life. If you ever wanted to feel like a kid again, this is one way to do it.
  • Stimulate the Mind: It’s always easier to master a task when you’re enjoying it. Play can help you learn and reinvigorate your imagination. Participating in activities that challenge your brain can help improve your memory and other brain functions.
  • Stress Less: When you’re having fun, the body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Playing with loved ones can help decrease your chances of experiencing stress or depression.
  • Deepen Your Relationships: While play is beneficial on your own, it can be even more beneficial with others. Playing with loved ones can increase empathy and trust. It doesn’t always have to be literal either, having a playful attitude can be a great way to form friendships or relationships in business.

Types of Play

It may seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways to seamlessly add play into your life. Dr. Brown classifies play into 5 different types:

  • Ritual Play: Games or sports with a set of rules allow you to develop strategy, creativity, and learn how to work with others toward a common goal.
  • Imaginative Play: One day you have an imaginary friend and the next you’re overwhelmed with spreadsheets. Spending time creating art or participating in acting classes can renew your imagination.
  • Rough-and-Tumble Play: Being active in scavenger hunts and field games like tug-of-war and capture the flag can encourage cognitive and emotional development.
  • Object Play: Building and designing using Legos, models, and puzzles can sharpen your problem-solving skills.
  • Body Play: Challenging your body is a great way for adults to play. This can include activities like snorkeling, surfing, hiking, yoga, and even riding amusement park rides.

Play at Work

There is no reason to isolate work and play from each other, in fact, there are many benefits to putting them together. When you participate in play during work hours, you can decrease stress, increase energy levels, prevent burnout, inspire creativity, and encourage teamwork amongst your peers.

In Just 5 Minutes You Could:

  • Take a walk around the office
  • Sketch
  • Work on a word puzzle
  • Make a cup of coffee
  • Have a healthy snack
  • Call a loved one

Which Types of Play are Best for You?

When you think back on some of your favorite childhood memories, which types of play did you enjoy? Were you by yourself or with others? We suggest trying all the different types of play to find the best activities for you. After you find something you enjoy, make a concerted effort to do it often! It might be difficult at first but making time for play can start making a positive impact on your life.

 

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