Squishy soft play dough… marvelously messy finger paints… summer swimming at the pool… building giant cities with Legos… What was your favorite thing to do as a kid? What did you love to do when you could just play? These things matter – much more than you think.
Remember when you were young and life was more about playing than anything else? You could kick the ball around the yard for hours, build a hidden fort deep in the woods, color carelessly in a coloring book, or act out wild and whimsical stories from your imagination… all these things were helping you learn to think creatively and handle stress. They were vital to your development as a person. As it turns out, science is beginning to show the importance of positive play in increasing intelligence, and that lack of play makes you vulnerable to many things including violence. It is critical to your well-being to play, no matter how old you are.
We are all too aware that life has become all work and no play. More than ever we press and push ourselves to achieve. We work constantly – and when we aren’t working – we think about work. When we finally stop working we sit and watch television. Very few of us truly invest in playing despite the absolute necessity of it to help us live happy and meaningful lives. Listen to this again – science is suggesting that lack of play leads to anger, violence, and in some cases even murder.
We need to play. The natural instinct in us to play as we did as children does not change but is selectively isolated and eventually removed to make us “workers” not players. We are trained out of playing. It is discouraged and looked down upon. Adults are made to feel bad for wanting to play, while creative minds know that it is absolutely necessary to the creative process to let yourself be free in this powerful way.
Do you know that feeling you get when you are doing something you love and you get so into it that you kind of get lost? You can actually reach a state that is somewhat like meditation – it is called “flow.” Flow refers to being so totally absorbed in an activity that it feels like time slows down and you are almost unaware of self or what is going on around you. Being this deep into an activity shifts your brain into a state of rest that has great benefits for your health and well-being. When you play or do something creative you can enter the state of flow and be deeply refreshed. So how do you get there?
Here are some of the top activities recommended to relieve stress and help you find flow.
1. Gardening – combines the benefits of being in nature, physical labor, and seeing things grow and produce
2. Photography – helps develop and eye for beauty and seeing the world from a different perspective
3. Journaling/Scrapbooking – combines the gifts of crafting and storytelling
4. Maintaining an Aquarium – proven health benefits from watching the calm movement of fish plus a chance to create a miniature world
5. Puzzles – teaches focused attention and problem solving that can overflow to everyday life
6. Drawing – accesses the creative brain and calms the artist
7. Painting – improves the function between hand and brain stimulating growth and better processing, relieves stress and provides a creative outlet
8. Knitting – repetitive motion provides stress relief and can help channel flow
9. Playing Piano – multiple benefits from music, creativity, and outlet for passionate energy
10. Writing – provides a quiet space for the mind and the soul to work out issues and let creativity flow
What ways do you play? Think about when you have experienced “flow” and what you were doing that got you there. Find time to create and challenge yourself to make room for fun. Part of why we look back on our childhoods with fondness is the memory of play. That does not have to stop – in fact it must not stop. To find the reservoir of Goodness you carry, you must give yourself time to enjoy life on a deep and creative level. There is a pleasure in playing that goes much deeper than when you simply seek entertainment (read: distraction). Playing enriches you. Playing helps resolve inner conflict. Playing energizes you. Playing helps fight stress. Playing makes you a happier, better person. So what are you waiting for? Go out and play!
If you know someone that could use a little encouragement to play, please spread a little Goodness by sharing this post!
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