Deep Time, a $1.5 million research project on human adaptation to 40 days in a damp, dark cave with no clocks, no phones, no contact with outside world—finds 67% of subjects wanted to stay in isolation longer.

Staying Connected While Staying In

No surprise to me. It’s exactly what I’m noticing about invitations to go out and play that I’m putting off a bit longer myself! And it’s not just me, although it is especially interesting on me given how much I wished I could go out and play all that time I spent in isolation for talking back to my dad.

I’m also reminded of a 1994 movie, The Shawshank Redemption. If I remember correctly, there was something in the ending about Morgan Freeman actually preferring incarceration, where his comfort and community had grown. Much like the many now who have figured out how to both entertain themselves and connect with others in news ways that work surprisingly well.

But just because something is comfortable doesn’t necessarily make a steady diet of it right.

The Case For Play

Here’s a good statement from performance coach, Joe Robinson:

“When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It’s the brain’s reset button. This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.”

Anybody who has ever suffered burnout will tell you how practical and serious it is to bring energy back to life – at work and at home.

In fact, Harvard researchers found that play not only relieves stress but improves brain function, stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, improves relationships, builds energy and resistance to disease.

Wow. But then, if it’s that good, how come we don’t play more. Seems to me right up there with the best of ways to spend our time. And yet, a lot of folks don’t look at play that way. As one author put it:

“Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.”

Make time. You know you can. Somehow we all manage to find time for whatever it is we really want to do.

Defining Play For YOU

But maybe you haven’t played in a long time, and don’t even know what would be play for you. After all, there are so many kinds of play:

  • Object play (basketball)
  • Locomotor play (running)
  • Social play (pretending)

Some play doesn’t look like play at all. Take imagination. When we have a problem on our hands and may ask ourselves what someone we admire might do in a similar situation, is that not a form of playing around up there in the brain.

In fact, more than a few people I know play most of what could be the best parts of their lives up there in the brain, more as spectators up in the stands than players out there on the field of their very own lives.

These folks spend time planning trips they never take, imagining love they won’t go out to find, wishing for their dream career from the desk they will not dare to leave. It’s a fine place to start, with that glimmer in the mind’s eye about how we dream things to be.

But it’s a terrible place to be stuck.

What’s In The Way?

What’s in the way for those who don’t or won’t play as much as they could? Fear? Fear of looking like a fool? Fear of making a mistake? Fear of being undeserving? Fear of work undone? You name it. Name it for yourself.

So for example, when the spoiler in you says ‘You have work to do’ you may follow that with something like ‘Yes, I do, and it will be there for me when I’m done refreshing my mind to do it better’.

Or when the spoiler says ‘You will look like a fool out there on those roller skates,” you can agree again with something like ‘Yes, you are right, I might, but how I look is irrelevant for a physical activity aimed to improve how I think and feel.’

And for anyone having trouble figuring out what’s the best play for you, you may take a magic carpet ride back to your childhood, and picture yourself playing at what you loved to do. I, for one, spent hours on end writing books as a little girl, with construction paper covers, sewn up the middle with a big needle and yarn.

For me, reading and writing were play, and still are favorite ways to spend my time. Hence, the indoor-ness of it all. But I really loved to bike too, so I could get the bike out of the storage locker where it has lived for the entire pandemic. But then, where will I put it now that I have 3 indoor pieces of gym equipment already inside. I have to figure that out.

And you? What was it for you then? How do you dream about playing now? How about to start: One time a day designated just for play? Or something else you might devise. Practice, practice, practice, see what happens…and let us know.

Warm Wishes,