“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”– George Bernard Shaw
Summer is on the horizon and this time of year is always a nostalgic one for me. I am flooded with memories of summers spent in the backyard, running through sprinklers, drinking Slurpees in the park and hanging out at the community pool. In my mind, summer is intrinsically linked with opportunities for fun.
Unfortunately, somewhere between the carefree summers of our childhood and our current states of adulthood, we have forgotten how to play. Where in the grown-up handbook does it say that we have to take ourselves seriously all of the time? Or that kids should be the ones to have all the fun?
We have a tendency as adults to self-edit our behaviour. We hold back as if seeking some unspoken permission before engaging in anything that might be considered childish or childlike. If the recent Staff and Faculty Sports Day on campus demonstrated anything to me, it is that we are all looking, if not craving, opportunities to infuse a bit more fun into our lives.
Aside from the very obvious benefit of play (it is fun!), there is a growing body of research linking play in adults to increased creativity, stress relief, more positive relationships, cooperation and improved social skills.
Benefits of Play
- Increased insight and creativity: Playfulness and a happy mood have been found to broaden our thoughts patterns allowing for new ways of thinking to emerge.
- Improved social connections: Play requires communication, collaboration and trust. The same skills that children are encouraged to build continue to grow and improve in adulthood.
- A thicker wallet: Laughter is free, as are many opportunities for fun and play. Make use of free or low-cost outdoor spaces, positive people in your life or community activities.
- A mental health boost: Endorphins released during exercise through play can increase feelings of well-being. Games and puzzles can also help improve brain function and protect against memory loss.
Opportunities for Play
- Start a games drawer in the office: Start collecting old games, puzzles and sports equipment to play during lunch or on a break.
- Host regular friendly competitions: Invite colleagues to compete in a hoola hoop competition or a Trivial Pursuit tournament.
- Play with children: Take the time to learn from the masters. Visit the trampoline gym, play make believe or watch a favourite childhood movie.
- Get outside: Play with a pet at the beach or invite friends to the park for bocce or Frisbee. Buy a popsicle and half it with a friend, or a stranger!
- Get creative: Pick up an adult colouring book (yes this is a thing) or have a craft night with friends.
I love finding an empty swing set and swinging as high as possible. I enjoy seeing my surroundings from a new perspective, feeling the wind blow through my hair and being carefree-if only for a few minutes. Once I come down and plant my feet on the ground again, something in me has changed. I feel a little bit lighter and a little bit brighter. Often the best feeling is knowing I was able to break with convention without worrying what the other adults around me might think.
This month I invite you to give yourself permission to have fun. Give yourself permission to be a little silly, to laugh until you cry, to run barefoot on the grass, to take a risk and to re-connect with the elements of your childhood that filled you with unabashed joy.
Throw caution to the wind and when a chance to play presents itself, take it!
All my best,
Check out this fun TED Talk about Creativity and Play!