June 6, 2014

Play Like a Kid

Girl Climbing Tree

When was the last time you made time to play? Yes, we said "play," like kids do. You do remember how much fun it was to play, don't you? Fact is, a little bit of play can go a long way toward boosting your productivity and happiness.

In his book Play, author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen. He writes, "...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, writes Dr. Brown.

So why do so many of us look upon play as a childish, even guilty, pursuit? Could it be that by the time we reach adulthood we think it's time to get serious, and that between personal and professional demands, there's just no time to play?

Whatever the reason, it's time to throw it away with all those other overly serious notions about adulthood and realize that humor, games, roughhousing, and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults -- and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

So how can you add more play into your life? Here are a few tips from the experts:

Think about play differently. Give yourself permission to play every day. It's one of the best things you can do for your career. When the project you're working on hits a serious glitch (as often happens), heading out to the basketball court with your co-workers to shoot some hoops and have a few laughs does a lot more than take your mind off the problem. If basketball isn't your thing, throwing a Frisbee, telling jokes, or flying a kite in the parking lot will also allow your relationship to the problem to shift and let you to approach it from a new perspective.

Take a play inventory. What did you do as a child that excited you? Did you play alone or with others? How can you recreate that today?

Make playful people part of your life. Vigorous play can trigger a mix of endorphins that lifts your spirits and distracts you from life's burdens. By surrounding yourself with playful people and making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your relationships and your life.

Play with children. Playing with kids helps us experience the magic of play through their perspective. Playing games with children can help you see how the fun present in the play adds valuable meaning to your own life.

How do you keep play in your life?