There was never any reason for play when we were kids, it just happened. Play teaches children how to build relationships, relate to others and express themselves. But what happens as we get older?
Play and connection is as important to our health as food, water and shelter. Dr Stuart Brown who runs the National Institute of Play compares play to oxygen and says, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” This might seem surprising until you consider everything that constitutes play. Play is art, books, movies, music, comedy, flirting and daydreaming.
Play deficit can actually lead to minor or chronic depression. So, why is it that when we grow up, most of us lose our innate desire to play? Play is often perceived as petty or unproductive and with all the responsibilities and busyness, there just doesn't seem to be any time for play. Right? But wait a second, there is now undeniable scientific research that supports the benefits of play for our mental health and wellbeing!
Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal … anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” What does he mean? We are social creatures and we need connection in order to survive. Back in the day, when we were cave people, we had to be part of a tribe or else we’d die – whether by starvation, intense weather or predators.
Why do we need play?
- It helps to relieve stress and releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel good hormones
- It keeps you feeling young and energetic
- It supports relationships and connection
- It improves brain function
- It stimulates our mind and boosts our creativity
Just remember, the mind is like a parachute, it works best when it’s open and when we play, our mind is open to infinite possibilities.
How to incorporate more play into your life:
- Change your perception of play
- Say yes to things you wouldn’t often say yes to
- Recall past memories of playing
- Surround yourself with playful people
- Play with kids
- Go on holiday
- Play board games
- Watch films
- Read books
We don’t have to play every second of every day. A little bit of play goes a long way.