You know that play is an integral part of being a child, but did you know it’s important for us adults as well?
Play has a number of health and well-being benefits, including bringing out those magical endorphins that make us feel happy, drawing us closer to those we are spending time with, and relieving the stress that follows so many of us around.
Even Biblical figures recognized the value of play. King David loved God so much that he “leaped and danced before the Lord.” Ecclesiastes references “a time to laugh… and a time to dance.” Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!” We tend to paint biblical figures as stoic and serious, but joy – and expressions of it – was encouraged and celebrated.
Today, we have an endless array of ways to play. We benefit most from activities that spark a passion or allow us to get lost in the process. Just doing so gives us a respite from our daily routine, our worries, and our stress. Play is therapeutic in that way, in addition to just being fun.
Don’t know where to start? Think back to when you were a child. What brought you the greatest joy? What did you absolutely love doing? If you remember spending hours exploring the woods, take up hiking. If you rode a bike everywhere you went, get back on that bike and relive the childhood joy of the breeze in your face.
The beauty is that you don’t have to think big. You don’t have to join a tennis league (although if you want to, have at it!); you can take a lesson or hit some balls with a friend. Or you can take up a singular pursuit: painting or learning to play an instrument, for instance. What’s important is that you carve out consistent time for play.
Perhaps there’s a weekly dance class you can take. Then, when you’re home alone, crank up the music and dance your heart out. Your goal is to merely have fun. As play coach Jeff Harry says, “I consider play any joyful act in which you forget about time. It has no purpose and no intended result.”
Imagine that. No To-Do list to check off, no goal you must meet, no time limit you must spend, no expectations and no requirements. Play takes us back to our childhood days when we could hop on a swing, play house, and get lost in our own imaginations. No wonder play sparks creativity! There are no rules, and your mind and body are free to do what they want.
An added bonus to play is what it can do to strengthen relationships with your spouse, your kids, or your friends. Witness the popularity of amusement parks, escape rooms, sporting events, and concerts. They bring people together to collaborate, laugh, dance, sing, and cheer. And when you’re having fun together, you’re making memories and drawing closer.
When you think about it, there really is no downside to play. So think like a kid and find your joy!