Learn To Play Again

What do you think of when you hear the words childlike spirit? The question was posed to me in a recent podcast interview with Mary Lee on the Un-FAQs podcast.  My answer was that it was something I am learning to do again. And what I meant was that I am learning to play again.

So when I was a teenager, I used to paint.  But I was told by an art teacher that I was not a talented painter, and I put it up for 30 years. My teacher was wrong.  We are all creative, but not necessarily artists.  I allowed her negative comment to stop me from doing something I enjoyed for a long time. 

So I gave my granddaughter, when she was three, a set of finger paints. And when she visits, we paint together. So figuring out how to play again was taught to me by a child. And that’s always the best way to relearn something when it’s something your body and mind are entirely forgotten.

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

My Happiness Project

Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project? Several years ago, I read the book, and instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I do an annual happiness project.

The idea is every month, you focus on something you want more of in your life. So if you want more friends in your life, that means just that month you concentrate on being a better friend.  Or, if you’re going to expand what you read, you join a book club

One thing on my list was to learn how to play again. So I spent an entire month learning what that entails—something simple as buying a grown-up coloring book and a set of colored pencils.  I enjoyed coloring, but we are told it’s for kids.  Guess what?  We are all kids at heart. That is the childlike spirit we are trying to recapture.     

The following year, my calendar was a color yourself planner. And every week, I got to color a picture. So I focused on learning how to bring that fun and playfulness back into my life.  Maybe you’re going to have a game night.  Those stupid, silly things that you don’t think of, like playing in the dirt as we plant herbs in our garden.

So, it’s adding back into our lives all those little things that we used to do as a child, which still light us up and bring us a lot of joy.

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play. ~ Abraham Maslow

Why Adults Need Play?

As adults, we all have responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean our lives revolve around our work.  Fun, or play, is something we all need to help us relax and enjoy our lives.  But for many of us, that means watching television or scrolling through social media.  Neither of these activities is relaxing or considered play.  Why? Because they don’t allow for the use of our imagination or creativity.  Just the opposite, both can harm our emotional well-being. 

Adult play can be simply joking around with friends, tossing the football, wearing a costume as you greet the tricker treaters on Halloween, even if you don’t have kids.  Maybe it’s making snow angels, playing with your puppy, or riding on the back of your husband’s motorcycle as you ride through the mountains. 

Play doesn’t have to have a point other than to have fun.  We need to give ourselves permission to play and understand that it’s an act of self-care. It reduces stress because it causes us to release endorphins, which promotes well-being and helps decrease pain, which helps with our clarity. 

Play helps us improve our brain function because it stimulates our imagination and creative problem-solving as our curiosity increases. It also helps make authentic connections with others.  Through laughter and compassion, play is a state of mind.  It keeps us feeling young and energetic.  It also has the health benefits of helping us fight off disease.   

Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.  ~ Stuart Brown, MD

The Elements Of Play

When we enjoy the moment, can we consider it play?   I think so.  Why?  Because the elements of play are in action when we are having fun.  What are the criteria for an activity to be playful? 

Is our imagination being utilized? Are we competing against another person or team?  Are we creating something new or innovative?  If we are using any of them, then we may be playing.

I believe that play occurs in a flow state when we are one with the Universe and time “stands still” during the activity.  When we can let go of the egoic mind and allow ourselves to be and enjoy life. 

When we are in this flow state, we have a sense of detachment from the world’s cares. Our self-confidence increases because we feel we have the skills needed for this playful action.  We aren’t bored or anxious because we are fully in the present moment. And when we are in this state of mind, peace flows from within us.    

Play occurs when the activity we are doing is joyful and is therapeutic for our souls. 

We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing. ~ Charles Schaefer

Play Helps Our Relationships

When we are playful with others, it keeps our relationships exciting.  It helps bring out our joy and encourages our resiliency when things get complicated. In addition, playfulness can help us forgive others, decrease disputes, and build trust within our relationships. 

Through play, we build our socialization skills as we learn to cooperate and make concessions for the overall good of the whole. In addition, we can replace negative behaviors with positive ones through the act of play. Why?  Because fun allows us to create healthy bonds, resolve conflicts, and overcome awkwardness to be our authentic selves.   

At work, playfulness allows us to improve our productivity and creative problem-solving. In addition, this fun at work promotes healthy ways to relieve stress and greater job satisfaction.  It also allows us to engage our creative side of the brain, enabling us to see from a unique perspective and encourage team cooperation. 

It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives. ~ Fred Rogers

How To Increase The Play In Your Life

Let go of our inhibitions and be playful.  We all want to have fun. Even the most serious of us enjoy a good belly laugh. That’s why comedies are so popular.  We all need to give ourselves permission to add fun and play to our lives.   

By adding a few components to our routines, play can become a standard form of stress release. So have a game night with our tribe of friends or whatever everyone enjoys, mini-golf or karaoke.  

Or take your dog to the dog park and play with him.  Pets allow us to be ultimately ourselves and enjoy silliness because there is no judgment from them.  I think the best way to invoke your inner child is to play with another child.  I believe that is why we are given grandchildren.  To remind us we are to play and have fun.       

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Moving Forward Playfully

I believe we can all add playfulness to our daily lives. For example, share a joke with a coworker.  See the wonders all around us.  Or allow the joy within us to rise and be shared with those we encounter each day. 

We all did this as children, so we know how to play.  It may take us time to remember what we thought was fun and enjoyable, but I believe we can all get there. 

Our lives aren’t meant to be as serious as we take them.  We are supposed to enjoy our lives by filling our days with lightness.  We are responsible to restore wonder and playfulness to our lives as the key to aging gracefully. 

As we become more conscious of our need to play, we can learn to add it to our routines and create our dreams’ lives. 

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning. ~ Diane Ackerman

Do you need support to help you learn to detach?  Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.