Children spend a lot of their time engaged in playful activities both alone and with other children; but somewhere between childhood and adulthood many of us lose the ability or the desire to play. Have you ever been amazed at the imagination of your child, or wondered how they remain calm in stressful situations? It’s all down to play. It’s not only children that benefit from play; adults can also reap the myriad of health and wellbeing benefits that play brings...
- Play relieves stress: When you’re having fun your brain releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins are powerful brain chemicals that can temporarily relieve physical and emotional pain, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing.
- Play improves brain function: Activities like puzzles and jigsaws challenge the brain and can help to improve memory function, while the social aspect of playing games with friends and family can help to keep stress and depression at bay.
- Play boosts creativity: Play stimulates your imagination and helps you to problem solve and learn new things better. Children learn more than they know through playing, and the same can apply to adults too. You’ll take in new information better when you’re relaxed and playful.
- Play keeps you feeling young: George Bernard Shaw famously said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Play stimulates the productions of endorphins and energises your body, helping you to feel healthy and full of vitality.
- Play improves your social skills: As children, we learn how to communicate verbally and nonverbally through play. We also learn about boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork. As adults we continue to refine these skills through playful interactions and communication.
- Play teaches cooperation: Play is a big part of positive socialisation. As children we learn how to play nicely with others, i.e. to work together, socialise, and follow mutually agreed upon rules of how to behave. Adults can also continue to improve their relationships and break down barriers through play.
- Play can heal emotional hurt: Adults who play are engaging in the same patterns of behaviour that positively shape the brains of children. If an adult who has been hurt emotionally or feels insecure in their emotions plays with someone who is secure and strong it can help to turn negative behaviours and beliefs into positive ones.
- Play can fix problems: Laughter and play are essential in building strong, healthy relationships. If a relationship has broken down, play can help you to regain and deepen the intimacy, as well as helping to keep things fresh and vibrant. Play helps couples to overcome differences and alleviate the small aggravations that can build up over time.
How to incorporate play into your life
It’s all well and good for us to tell you to play more often, but if you’ve not been actively playing for much of your adulthood you might be unsure about how to actually play more often. Here are a few ways that you can start to incorporate more play into your daily life...
- Create opportunities for play: Arrange a games night or a night out bowling or singing karaoke with friends – anything that involves interacting with others and doing something fun that you wouldn’t normally do.
- Surround yourself with playful people: If you have a friend who always seems to be having fun and enjoying life then try to spend time with them as their playful nature will eventually rub off on you too.
- Play with children: If you have young children, nieces and nephews, or grandchildren try to spend some time playing with them. Playing with children can help you to experience the joy of play from their perspective.
- Make time for play: Clear your schedule for an afternoon or evening and turn off your phone, television, computer etc and engage in a fun activity. It could be something you haven’t done since you were a child, or something completely new that you’ve been too afraid to try before.
- Play a traditional game: Traditional games such as shuffleboard, card games, Scrabble, Connect Four, and bowling can take you back to your childhood and help you to reconnect with your former playful self.