Work hard, play hard. We all hear it. We all preach it. But how many of us live by it? When was the last time you played hard? Like REALLY played hard?
Unfortunately for most adults, only half of this proclamation comes to fruition. And it’s not the half you’re hoping for.
As kids we would run and tumble, screaming with joy.
We laughed and giggled 300 times a day. Then we became adults. That laughter dwindled from 300 times a day to a mere 300 times every two and a half months! Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped laughing and playing. All of a sudden we became serious, important people. We traded laughter and play to create decks, sit in meetings, and send emails. When we are able to find a spare moment, we opt to zone out in front of the TV or a digital device rather than engage in truly restorative play.
Play, according to Oxford English Dictionary, is defined as ‘engaging in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.’
Oftentimes, adults stop playing because life gets busy.
With limited time, we have to decide what to keep on the activity list and what to take off. Unfortunately, play usually doesn’t make that list. We believe that our limited time should be dedicated to more serious pursuits such as our careers, our relationships, and our families. These are all valid areas to dedicate our time. But ironically, incorporating play can actually positively impact careers, relationships and families.
Research has shown that there are significant, far-reaching benefits of play that we need in our stressful on-the-go lives.
Play releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. This helps with stress relief and can help ward off depression. Play improves our brain function and stimulates creativity, which can make work more productive and pleasurable. Play also improves our relationships and connections with others by fostering our sense of empathy, compassion and trust. And if that’s not enough, play boosts energy and vitality, keeping us all feeling young and energetic.
As George Bernard Shaw said
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
So let’s all stay young! I assure you, that while it might seem daunting at first, you can easily cultivate a practice of play into your lives with these:
Four easy steps to reignite play into your life
Step 1: Time must be carved out for play.
Play tends to be free-flowing and happens spontaneously. But as busy adults we have to be more intentional and plan time for play. We have to set the goal to play more, just like we set goals for our career, our businesses, or eating healthy. Otherwise play will be the first thing to drop off the to-do list.
To carve out time I like to use the Eisenhower Matrix, developed by former president Dwight Eisenhower to boost productivity. The idea is simple:
- List out all of your to-do’s
- Plot them into one of the four boxes in this grid
The way to think about this is that any urgent task is something that you need to act upon right away. Importance of a task is determined by how much it will contribute to your long-term goals. When looking at how to prioritize tasks best, ask which one of the quadrants they best fit in. And then deal with them accordingly.
This simple matrix can help you immediately eliminate unnecessary tasks, move non-urgent tasks to a later time, and delegate non-important tasks. Ultimately, this makes the necessary tasks more manageable and carves out more time for you to incorporate play into your routine.
Step 2: Look at what type of play to fill that time with.
Play is different for all of us. Decide what fun means for you. What are things you enjoyed doing as a kid? Which of those are still appealing? What are some things you’ve always thought would be fun and wanted to try, but haven’t yet? A few ideas to get your juices flowing:
- Have a water fight
- Draw something
- Build a sand castle
- Run around in a garden chasing butterflies
- Lay on a blanket and watch the stars
- Host regular Board Game nights
- Dance around the house just for the fun of it
- Hula hoop
- Blow bubbles
- Build something big with blocks (or maybe cardboard boxes) just to knock it down
- Watch cartoons
- Bike ride with no destination
- Make snow angels
- Play with your pet
- Pick up seashells
- Draw a hopscotch game with chalk then play
- Sing at the top of your lungs
- Lay out a picnic and read your favorite book
- Fly a kite
The list is infinite. What sounds fun for you?
Step 3: Schedule it!
You have the time. You know what you want to do. Decide whether you’ll incorporate it into the workplace, as a play-date with your partner, or an activity you want to do with a friend. Now schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, it’s likely not going to happen.
Step 4: The last step is to have fun.
You’ve come this far! Enjoy your recess.
“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.” – Lucia Capocchione
Now go taste the goodness in life!