I was recently asked how often I got the chance to play. You know, act like a kid, let loose, have no particular purpose and just play. The truth is, the act like a kid part might seem like a stretch for some to relate to, because not all of us necessarily had the opportunity to be so carefree and playful during childhood. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t have moments of play while growing up, but it isn’t at the forefront of my memories. While it’s perfectly normal for many adults to feel the need to be serious with all of the grown-up responsibilities surrounding them with no room for play, growing up in a home of dysfunction built that serious nature within me at a very young age. During a time when I should have been without a care in the world, instead, I developed a great sense of responsibility to be a care giver for my family within my ever-changing and unpredictable environment. Play was not a priority.
It turns out that there is a good deal of research that shows play is an essential part of brain development for a child. It contributes to building and regulating emotions, social skills, and problem solving abilities, just to name a few. But it doesn’t stop at childhood. There is evidence that adults need play, too, and the benefits are vast. Whether you had an opportunity to play often as a child or not, and no matter how busy you might be as a grown-up, for the benefit of your career, relationships, or just overall well-being, you may want to consider fitting a little fun and silliness into your life. I certainly intend on doing so.
Top Five Reasons Adults Need Play
- Stress Relief. Stepping into play for even a few minutes can help you unwind and even refresh you. It triggers endorphins, boosts your mood, and can improve your overall sense of well-being. When you make time for play, you are no longer focusing on the stressors in life. This little break may even help fight off depression and anxiety.
- Relationship Building. Whether with friends, your partner, or co-workers, sharing in fun together can build trust and compassion. It fosters connections with one another and builds a sense of community. Also, just as with children, it can be a solid way to improve social skills. As an added benefit, play just might boost your relationship with your significant other with a dose of passion and joy.
- Fuels Creativity. There is no question that children tend to be creative when they are playing, but the same holds true for adults. When in a relaxed state, you are likely to be more open to learning a new task. A bit of play might spark your imagination and ultimately lead to a new idea with that little side project you’ve been contemplating.
- Better Work. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the above three items would only lead to improved work. Play should help you work better under stress, it will help avoid burnout, and it encourages innovation and creative thinking. Success isn’t about how much we work, but it’s about the quality of work, and taking time out for play will lend itself greatly to this success.
- Maintaining Vitality. Play keeps us feeling young. It boosts the mood, increases energy, and might even fight off illness. The bottom line is that when we play, we feel good. How can you argue with that?
Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good -Lucia Capocchione