The word ‘play’ probably brings to mind a mental picture of children laughing in a park, flying through the air on swings and digging holes
in the sandpit. It’s sad that our society doesn’t value play for adults - in a world where we’re always supposed to be productive, having fun is thought to be a ‘waste of time’.
In fact, we’re programmed to believe that if we aren’t constantly busy, we’re not living up to our potential. Doing nothing makes us feel guilty that we’re not succeeding or even that we’re not good enough. But will our lives actually fall apart if we allowed ourselves to relax and have fun?
The truth is that without play, we risk becoming burnt out and losing touch with our real selves and with others. Here’s why.
PLAY AS FUN
When was the last time you did something simply because you enjoyed it? As children, we were able to find joy in the simplest things. We used to choose our activities based on how much fun they were, but as soon as we become adults, we forget how to do this.
Scientific studies show that play can relieve stress, by releasing endorphins - which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Play is so essential to our overall feeling of well-being that the Hindus even have a name for it: “Leela” which is Sanskrit for “divine joy” or “divine play”.
PLAY AS LEARNING
Because we now understand how important play is in children’s education, it is incorporated into the curriculum for schools and pre-schools. But why should learning stop once we’re no longer kids? Research has revealed the cognitive benefits of play: fun activities that also challenge the brain can help to improve concentration, problem solving skills and even memory.
But that’s not all. Play is a great tool for reconnecting with your inner child and boosting creativity. While life may have dragged us by the hand, our inner children are patiently waiting for us to remember them, give them a voice again and allow them to shine and sparkle once more.
PLAY AS CONNECTION
We all know that play is a way for children to develop their social skills - but adults can use play to bond with each other as well. And it's important to recognise that social connection is directly related to our state of health and well-being. These days, we’re so glued to our screens that it can be challenging to put down our devices, connect with our loved ones, and make new friends.
Sharing fun and laughter with friends and family helps to build intimacy, strengthen our relationships and ease day-to-day tensions. Some workplaces are even adopting games as team-building exercises, and are seeing results in higher job satisfaction and staff morale. Play encourages people to work together, developing collaboration and trust.
PLAY IN YOGA
In Yoga, sometimes we become too focused on mastery and not enough on exploration. Yes, Yoga is an important and powerful practice, which does require times where things need to be taken very seriously - but there are times within this, where we can look at yoga as a playful experimental journey of discovery and learning.
In my classes, I encourage my students to think about what is happening when we’re in a pose. What are we feeling and experiencing? How do we react when we fall out? Can we laugh at ourselves or do we get critical? These days, I certainly am able to laugh at the wobbles more often - both on the chair (or mat) and off! And while we’re focusing on keeping the balance, we can allow ourselves to have these special moments of bliss, and to feel GOOD about them.
A FEW WAYS TO START PLAYING....
Invite your friends over for a board games evening
Buy a set of paints, set out some paper and just paint!
Take your family out for bowling or mini golf
Organise a karaoke night with your work mates or buddies
Get a pet or volunteer at an animal rescue shelter
Go barefoot in the grass, jump in the leaves or even, if you dare - climb a tree!
Sign up for a dance class, like Zumba - or just boogie at home!
Spend time doing something that makes you feel good inside and out! Like this Chair Yoga Sequence