Play? Yes! Here’s How to Be More Playful
I love throwing a ball for my dog Murphy. He shows so much joy chasing it and bringing it back. Even when I don’t have the ball, he races up and down the beach, circling and sniffing. There is unbounded joy in his actions.
Dogs know a lot about play, so do kids. That deep engagement and doing something just for the joy or pleasure of it without a purpose or end goal can be a lot harder as an adult.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw
There are a lot of reasons for that: we’re busy. We have a lot of responsibilities. We keep hearing how we need to set goals, work hard to reach them, be productive. With all the things we need to do, play gets further and further out of reach. Let’s change that.
Why Play as an Adult
Google what is play and your first responses will be about kids and the benefits play has for everything from social skills to wellness to learning to read, but what about adults?
Play is essential for adults too. It adds joy and pleasure to our lives. Play is creative and opens us to wonder. It decreases stress. Play also builds our capacity to deal with hard stuff in our own lives or the darkness in the world. It makes us feel more alive.
Play doesn’t mean that we ignore the hard stuff. It means we can notice the beauty and joy that happens alongside the tough stuff.
Play might be doing something you used to love … going for a bike ride with no destination, dancing with abandon, watching the clouds in the sky. It might be trying something new … visiting a new trail, cooking a new recipe, dabbling with paints.
The key is not to go into it with a purpose. Biking to do an errand is very different from just letting yourself fly down the road. Cooking a new dish to impress people is different than settling into a flow state in the kitchen. Part of play is the attitude or intent you bring to it.
How to Play as an Adult
When do you play as an adult? How do you play as an adult?
Most of us have lost touch with play. One way of finding play as an adult is tapping back into the feeling of joy and what you used to love.
Try journaling on these prompts:
- How did you like to play when you were 5? 10? 18?…
- How did playing make you feel?
- Think of one experience from when you were younger when you forget about time.
- What were you doing?
- Write down the details you remember of all your senses during that experiences.
Maybe there is something in your journaling that you want to try again. If your response is I can’t do that. It’s kid stuff. Think about how it felt. What could make you feel that way again … even if it’s a very different activity?
Here are a few other ideas for getting back to play as an adult:
- Say Yes More. If something sounds fun or intriguing, say yes. Say yes, even if you’re busy. Say yes to things you love — and to new things. New things open our beginner’s mind. Be brave and don’t worry about being silly or how well you do. Say yes even if the thing feels a little scary. Say yes, and then go all in. See what happens.
- Block Off Time. While play is hard to schedule, having some open space in your calendar to really let yourself get engaged in something makes it easier to get into that out of time and place feeling.
- Play Throughout the Day. While big blocks for time help with that sense of expansiveness that opens creativity, you can be more playful throughout the day. Dance while you do the dishes. Turn up your favorite music and sing along in the car. Text silly ideas to a friend who will play along. All these little moments help you remember what playful feels like.
How are you going to build play into your life this week?
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Hi, I’m Melanie!
I’m a Journaling and Joy Coach and I believe your story is the key to the life you want.
I guide my clients through intentional processes to find the answers waiting for you in your stories, bringing compassion, deep listening — and fun — to the process.
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