As we grow older, we tend to see play as something for children. We have the stress of careers, family, relationships, and we become too serious. We believe we need to spend all of our time on tasks that have a “purpose.” For example, to get exercise, we believe we need to go to the gym or a class. How about playing a game of tag with your kids? This will work up a good sweat and also create a memory you won’t forget. Playing is about the joy of the experience and not on accomplishing a goal.
“We do not quit playing because we grow old, we grow old because we quit playing.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
When we do have leisure time, we typically spend it sitting in front of the TV or on social media, zoning out. Instead, we should try playing cards or a board game with our loved ones. When was the last time you traversed a set of monkey bars with your kids?
“Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged.” Greg McKeown
Playing has so many positive benefits. It is fun and a great way to reduce stress. Playing games like chess or completing puzzles helps improve brain function. When we play we are more relaxed, stimulating our creativity and imagination. It can also help us improve relationships and spark new friendships. When I look at people in their later years, the ones that are still playful appear to be really enjoying themselves. My father and his best friend are in their 70s and when they get together it is like watching two little kids play. They pick on each other, crack jokes and laugh. I can see how beneficial it is for each of them to do this.
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” Friedrich Nietzsche
I believe one of the reasons we limit our playfulness as we grow older is because we become self-conscious and are worried about embarrassing ourselves. We are too worried about what other people’s perception of us will be. Will they think we are too childish and don’t act right? Who cares? If someone is judging you because you are enjoying yourself it is their self-esteem issue, not yours. Try stepping out of your comfort zone and do something spontaneous and playful with your partner. Maybe you go dancing or take a bike ride with no destination in mind. Whatever it is, enjoy the journey and be in the moment.
To Sum it Up
With the weather warming up, we all need to get back to playing more, including me. Whether it is a kickball league, riding bikes, playing chess or games with your kids, playing can be a great form of stress relief. In trying to decide what to do for play, look back on your life and reflect on what playful endeavors brought you joy. Try to incorporate these into your daily life and don’t take everything so seriously. Laugh, smile, have a good time and watch your stress levels drop.
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