How to play (as an adult)

When did you last play? I mean really play? When did you stop thinking about your to do list, your finances, your work, your worries … and find pleasure in the moment doing something enjoyable?

I’m task driven by nature. If I put play on my to do list I might ‘do it’ to cross it off the list, but not allow myself to be lost in time and enjoy it. As an adult I feel guilty about playing. In my mind when I play I’m ‘unproductive’. Playing is foreign to my sense of responsibility. It undermines my worth because I place value on myself based on what I do, not on who I am.

What are your reasons not to play? Are you too busy? Have you forgotten how? Or are you task driven like me?

Adults need to play

You need to play. Adults need to play. But we forget how to play.

Somewhere between childhood and growing up we’ve lost the willingness and ability to play. In the restoring balance workshops, when we talk about doing things that give us pleasure and activities we can lose ourselves in, most participants elect to complete a worksheet at home called the ‘Creative Leisure Scale’ as they have forgotten what it is they like to do to play. The worksheet helps them identify ‘hobbies, recreational activities, family activities, volunteering, crafts and sports that may appeal to them.

In the process and busyness of becoming an adult, we lose touch with the parts of us that used to automatically play like children do.

Benefits of play

Research is showing there are benefits to adults in rediscovering how to play. Play decreases stress and improves well-being. It improves brain function and creativity. If you think about children, they learn through play. It can improve your relational well-being as you cooperate and interact with others.1

Chris Kresser, a functional medicine practitioner says, ‘Play is not simply a frivolous luxury’. ‘Pleasure, play, and social connection are all deeply nourishing and restorative on both a physical and an emotional level and can provide a powerful antidote to stress.’2 He says this is because pleasure increases the secretion of the chemicals called endorphins which react in the brain to decrease perception of pain, boost the immune system and create feelings of euphoria.3

The ‘Help Guide’ says, ‘Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and emotional well-being.’ 4

Play has no goals. You don’t focus on what you need to achieve from it or what the outcome is. You just get into the moment and play.

How to play

Play comes naturally to kids. As adults we need some help to do it. What’s a good blog without three steps to guide your practice?

  1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play
  2. Make time to play
  3. Play

1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play

The challenge is on: how to play. I recognised I have lost this capability. When reading the introductory email that bought Chris Kresser’s blog into my inbox I realised I’m the person who is focused on stretching, diet, sleep, living a regimented life of chronic condition management, but I’m not playing. I get upset when things interrupt my finely tuned schedule for the day – be it a phone call with a friend, or a chance to sit for five minutes in the sun with a dog.

In Restoring Balance workshops many mums say they have also lost this capacity especially single mums whose life can be consumed by earning money to provide for the family and caring for the kids. For many mums their needs are at the end of the queue, last on the to-do list and are such that they are often unmet and eventually become unknown.

So, the first step is discovering or rediscovering your favourite ways to play. You may need to think back to when you were younger and what you enjoyed doing then. What did you use to do that gave you pleasure? What activities did you lose all sense of time in?

Take a moment to write a list, then decide what on the list still stirs your soul and is something you can do now to play.

Both articles in the resources have lots of ideas on how to play at work, how to play with your children and how to create opportunities to play.

2. Make time to play

If you are like me and live a regimented life of schedules and to-do lists you will need to put time on your calendar to play or prioritise playing on your to-do list, otherwise you will see it as an interruption. For me, I will also need to work on my mindset to value me enough to give myself the gift of time to play, allowing myself to have fun, because I’m worth it.

3. Play

Do it. Stop reading this and go and play!

Putting legs on it

Complete steps 1 to 3 above.

Resources

Kresser Institute: The role of pleasure and play in stress management 

Helpguide.org: The benefits of play for adults 

References

  1. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://kresserinstitute.com/role-of-pleasure-and-play-in-stress-management/?_ke=dmlja3lsNUBiaWdwb25kLmNvbQ%3D%3D&utm_term=pleasure-and-play&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ki-blog&utm_content=&utm_source=klaviyo

And L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults, Helpguide.org, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

  1. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://kresserinstitute.com/role-of-pleasure-and-play-in-stress-management/?_ke=dmlja3lsNUBiaWdwb25kLmNvbQ%3D%3D&utm_term=pleasure-and-play&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ki-blog&utm_content=&utm_source=klaviyo
  2. Ibid
  3. L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults, Helpguide.org, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

Photo credit

Lady with bubbles Photo by Uroš Jovičić on Unsplash

Water play Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Kids with ball Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

You may also like

Leave a comment

 

In loving others you need to self-care so you can run your race to the finish

Receive over 30 pages of tips and in-depth ideas for practicing self-care  Self-Care Pack

 Add your email address and click on the subscribe button


Subscribe!