Why Grownups Need Playtime
By Krista Elliott
It's a common routine among too many of us: We get up, go to work, come home, do housework, relax in front of the TV or our phone, go to bed, and then get up and start all over again.
When was the last time you played?
No, I don't mean competitive sports. I mean just playing for its own sake: Making art, jumping on a trampoline, rolling down a grassy hill, or building a LEGO model of the Millennium Falcon.
"Yeah, right," you say. "Like I have time for any of that stuff."
I get it. I really do. We're all busy and tired and overscheduled. But hear me out. Injecting a little bit of play into your life can go a long way toward making you happier and healthier.
What IS Play?
Yeah, it's kind of sad that we adults actually have to define what play is. But for psychological purposes, we do need to differentiate between play and other leisure activities. Play tends to have three defining characteristics: It's completely voluntary with no obligation whatsoever, it's flexible with loose (or no) rules, and most of all, it's FUN.
So some forms of play are definitely better for our psyche than others. A structured, scheduled game of tennis is fine. Cranking up some music and dancing wildly around the living room? Much, much better.
Why Play Helps Our Brains
As adults, our society is very structured and rules-driven, and the busier we are, the more virtuous we feel. By bucking the rules, at least for a little while, we upend our own preconceived notions and experience the subversive joy of doing what we WANT to do, not what we're expected to do. This mini-rebellion can feel incredibly freeing, building our confidence and relieving stress. Unstructured play is a huge mood-booster; even just watching other people engage in play can lift our moods, as this video can attest.
As well, by stepping outside of our routine and our rules, we engage the part of our brain where our imagination and creative thinking live. Most forms of play engage the creative brain without taxing it, so your mind is refreshed and energized, but not frustrated.
So, how do you start? The best way is to look backward to your own childhood. What did you love to do? Jump rope? Play with blocks? Color? Build couch forts? Start there, and ignore the stodgy voice telling you that you could be doing more productive things.
It's time to listen to your inner kid and just play.
To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.