When was the last time you truly let loose and had some good old fashioned, innocent fun? No end goal in mind, no real reason for whatever you were doing, other than simply enjoying it. Most likely not for a while. For some of you, maybe not since the late night drunken skinny dip at ‘that wedding’. For others it might be as far back as when you were at school.
When we’re children it’s all we do, and all we want to do, 24/7. The thing about play is as adults we struggle to see the value in it. Why would we waste useful, productive hours of our lives, with inane, ‘pointless activities’? Well the benefits of those so called ‘pointless activities’ are wide reaching, many of which not only apply to your work but also your overall happiness.
A creative mindset
Creativity is often a skill many of us don’t feel is within us. “I’m just not creative” are words uttered far too often. When we play though we are forced to be creative. To think in new and diverse ways. Often at times where there are no rules or we have to define the rules ourselves, we are forced to use our brains in a way they aren’t used to. In the moment of play this is fun and adds even more to the activity, whatever it is. But outside of that, individuals that play more, start to create this creative mindset. They are able to practice new skills, are open to critique and feedback, and more willing to engage in complex problem solving. Each of these are skills vital for creativity, as highly desirable traits in life, and in the workplace.
The ability to explore and take risks, risk free
Very rarely in life are there no consequences for taking risks. There’s usually something in the back of our minds holding us back, and preventing us from taking that leap of faith. In play though there are no risks. We can explore different outcomes and strategies without worrying about those ‘what if’s’. That can then allow us to translate that mindset into other parts of our lives, encouraging a few more risks and a whole lot more successes.
Another benefit of getting out of our day to day routines and playing more, is that basic human instinct for fun. Play tends to lead us towards the things we love in life. Sports, the arts, nature. All of these things are inherently fun and playful to us. And when we incorporate more of these into our lives, guess what? We feel better and our stress levels massively drop. Play actually has been shown to decrease levels of our stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. Even in activities like shoot ‘em up computer games, studies have shown the stress-busting benefits and decreased levels of cortisol. A less stressed body and mind also means a more creative mind. See, it’s all linked!
How to get more play into your day to day
So how can you actually play more in your life? Here’s a few tips:
- Don’t force it to be something it’s not. Play should feed into your natural curiosities and interests. Love sport? Try to make it something physical or competitive. Prefer drawing or reading, let it lead you down that road. Playing importantly should not be stressful or boring. It should be fun, relaxing and unique to you.
- Schedule it in. To begin with it can feel weird and a waste of time, so at the start you’re going to need to make time for it. Get it in the diary and commit to some play time! As you get more used to it you can become more spontaneous.
- Get your friends involved. Life is about shared experiences, and growing up, the most fun and playful times were often with others. The same is true as we grow up, so get some of your nearest and dearest involved too.
- Not sure where to start? Try something completely new, get out of your comfort zone, that’s often when the best play time occurs!