Play is such an important aspect of our lives and one that is so easily overlooked and pushed aside, especially as we get older. I’m not sure why that is…I think there are probably a lot of reasons but the reasons don’t matter so much as how to make a change and bring that play back into your life.
It used to be very hard for me to play. I felt like it meant I was irresponsible if I played…like I wasn’t mature enough as an adult. Full disclosure here…I did work in parks and rec for 15 years so I played a lot there. I worked hard too but I also played. We had a lot of fun but fun that occurs as a part of work is different. It’s good but it isn’t quite the fun we really need to fill our soul…the kind of fun that is only for us. Not the play that happens because we get a paycheck. I wouldn’t change anything there since that was most of the play I had in my life and I’m not sure I’d still be here if that was missing from the equation but I still felt empty inside.
Julie Cameron talks about the practice of doing an Artist’s Date in her book The Artist’s Way. This practice includes a weekly outing where you are doing something just for yourself. Something you really enjoy. While weekly may seem like a lot to fit into your schedule, it doesn’t have to be something big. It can be as simple as a really wonderful walk in your favorite park at a pace that allows you to really soak it all in…to be fully present.
Not all of us even know what kinds of play suit us well. We’ve been so far removed from the world of play that we’ve forgotten how to have fun. If that fits you, you might find this article on play helpful (I did) to get the brain juices flowing with ideas. In the article, Gretchen does a review on a book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. This book breaks play into different categories and identifying the category that fits you most can be a great way to come up with some ideas to get you started. I fit pretty well into 1, 3 and 7…anything in these categories would suit me very well. I love to make others laugh. I love to try new things (this one really gives me an extra boost). And I love creating things.
Another thing you may find helpful is to create a play book. I did this years ago using a 3 ring binder…a smaller one (not 8.5×11 paper size but 1/2 that). It was easy to carry around and full of ideas. I created pages like 5 Minutes to Play, 30 Minutes to Play, 1/2 Day to Play, Full Day to Play, Play with My Partner, Play with My Children, etc. Whenever an idea would pop into my head, I’d add it to the book. That way I was never short ideas. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to think on the spur of the moment. Now I simply have a note in my Evernote app on my computer, phone, and tablet (they all sync up together) called activities and any time I see something I think looks like fun, I add it to the list. It’s always with me and easy to refer to.
So when is the last time you played? I mean really played. Where your heart sang, you felt completely joy-filled, and you laughed. If it’s been a while or doesn’t happen enough, what can you do to shift that to include play as a regular part of your life? If it’s been a while or isn’t a part of your regular daily life, take some time and play today. Come up with a plan to bring more of this into your life. You deserve it!