Playing Through COVID19?

4 Ways to Build a Playful Mindset Through This Serious Time

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Sure, we’re all quarantined, hopefully wisely respecting the directives to stay home and not expose ourselves and others to COVID19. Indeed, someone posted this stark wake-up call recently in social media, “Coronavirus patients die alone in a hospital bed without a family member to hold hands with. Think about that before you go out.” Whew! And this article is about being playful? You bet it is. Our bodies are quarantined, not our minds.

I’m convinced that if there was a drug that offered all of the benefits that play does, it’d be the biggest seller on the planet. But who needs to buy a pill when play is free, available 24 hours a day, can be safely done indoors and in your backyards, and no prescription is ever needed?

Plato taught, “Life must be lived as play.” He understood the value of this pervasive, natural, pleasurable phenomena that typically begins with anticipation and ends with a smile. He also wisely observed, “You can tell more about a person in one hour of play than in a year of conversation.” 

You see when we play there is a genuine alignment of body, mind and spirit that promotes our ability to contact the deeper realm of our real lives. Abraham Maslow, the great American psychologist and creator the concept of “self-actualization,” describes the moments in our lives when we are fully engaged in activities such as play as being, “more integrated, less split, and more perfectly actualized.”

Wow! Imagine that just by playing the latest digital game with strangers around the world, playing tag around the house, climbing trees or doing a crossword puzzle we can be more perfectly actualized! And here I thought it was just fooling around, time wasting and unproductive. After all, we have to deal with problems, work, stress, the economy, putting food on the table and gas in our cars (if not plugging them in to a socket). Our culture teaches us not to “waste time.”

The truth is that NOT playing is wasting time. Not playing is being unproductive. Play creates more happiness by helping us reduce stress and increasing self-acceptance. It connects us with others, provides us with enjoyment, fun, self-expression and relaxation. Play releases serotonin and dopamine, both central to avoiding depression and anxiety. It also builds health by improving our physical condition, improves our fine and gross motor skills, and promotes our self-help. Play also contributes to making us smarter by boosting our creativity, fueling our abstract thinking and imagination, our problem-solving skills, our empathy and improves our ability to master new concepts. We learn better communication skills, vocabulary, story-telling and social skills.

Sure beats being glum about being quarantined. The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s loneliness, depression, a lack of optimism, anxiety and despair. So, here are some suggestions to improve your playfulness while quarantined:

1. Change the way you think about play. Happiness is not what you “have,” but the way you think. Don’t draw a distinction between work and play. Forget about “work life balance.” We’re in quarantine life balance now. Flourish in all arenas of life during this growth opportunity time, this “sandpapering” time, and make it all a choice to play, enjoy, and thrive continuously throughout the day.

2. Recall your childhood playtime favorites and dust them off. How can you adapt these activities to your current situation? Doing so will bring you back to life and help propel you positively, optimally, through COVID19life.

3. Find friends and buddies around the planet that enjoy being playful. It means locating people who value play as you do and will share in this healthful activity with you – virtually, of course.

4. Play with children, grandchildren, pets, your spouse/partner, and create your own enjoyable quarantine playground. Take your children on your “playground” with you and you’ll find that everyone on that “playground” is a child—again.

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