Don’t forget to play | The Happy + Healthy Life

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My sweet and thoughtful friend Amanda tagged me in a Facebook post of a simple sketch of two swings. At the bottom it read, “Don’t forget to play.” 

Along with the image was a quote that read, “ We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” 

It made me really stop and think about the importance of play. 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of play is to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Moreover, engaging in (a game or activity) for enjoyment, amusing oneself by engaging in imaginative pretence, or engaging in without proper seriousness or understanding. My definition of play is to go out, try new things and just have fun! 

“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength,” according to an American Academy of Pediatrics report. It allows children to explore the world, practice adult roles, and gain confidence. And it improves children’s social skills as well by helping them to “learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills.” (Parents Magazine, Karin Bilich) 

If play is so beneficial, why do we give it up or lessen our amount of play as adults? For many adults, there’s this idea that once we are all grown up, it’s time to buckle down and have a more serious, no-nonsense attitude. In short, we fail to remember to be carefree. We get so caught up in our jobs and in all the busyness of taking the kids here and there that we forget to play. 

Research has shown that we can’t forget to play because of all the health benefits. Play gets our bodies moving which makes our muscles and bones stronger. When we play, it lessens our cortisol levels which will reduce our levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Also, the giggles and silliness of play increases our endorphins,which trigger positive feelings and make us more joyful. 

Play makes us happy! 

When I asked my daughter Chloe why she thought it was important to play, she said with a smile, “I like to play because it gets my mind off things and it’s just fun.” I agree. 

Play is different for everyone and there are many types of play. 

Physical play gets our bodies in motion. This might be swinging our golf clubs, playing a game of neighborhood kickball, tossing a football, or running with a group around town.

Intellectual play makes you strategize and use your cognitive skills. Playing a card game, a board game, or putting together a puzzle can be playful and fun while increasing your memory and thinking skills. Creative play encourages a more restful and reflective type of play. Drawing or painting a picture or learning a new craft such as knitting or macrame all increase your creativity. 

Adventurous play usually gets your adrenaline pumping. Riding the twisty roller coaster or zip-lining through a canopy are just a few ways you can be daring and venturesome. 

How to play

First off, give yourself permission. Act as if you visited the doctor and he or she wrote you a prescription for play. Instead of saying you don’t have the time, find the time. Write it in your calendar. Set up a reminder on your phone. Schedule it in just as you would a doctor’s appointment. 

Or next time your child, a friend, or a spouse asks you to go play, seize the moment. Jump at the opportunity even if you can only play for 10 minutes. This will boost your mood and boost your productivity. 

Next, reconnect with your kid-self. What did you enjoy doing when you were younger? Did you ride your bike with your friends? Did you play a sport? Did you take walks through the woods? Did you enjoy coloring? Did you play tag, hide-n-seek, or hopscotch? Ignite the little kid from within! 

Diversify your play as much as possible. Branch out and try new things. What’s one thing you keep saying you’d love to do but keep putting it on the back burner? Schedule it today. Get out and play! 

Lastly, If you are having trouble, ask a friend to join you. Schedule a time to take a bike ride or go to a class together. There are tons of local activities going on, especially this time of year. There are types of play for any age and interest – watercoloring in the garden, ziplining, basket making, gardening, sign painting, photography, cooking, history tours, walking, hiking, running. 

Play is about enjoying your experience. When you are finding pleasure in play with others, you are strengthening your connection with each other. You will reap the benefits of spending time with friends that lift your spirits and make you snort when you laugh. Whether you are a child or an adult, play helps you develop and improve your social skills. Playing with others enhances communications and problem-solving skills too. 

Because it’s summer, you may think about waiting until you are vacation to play. This is not enough! 

Play is essential for everyday life. By adding play into your everyday, you will be more present in the moment, create more memories, bond more closely with others and find much joy and happiness. 

Don’t wait. Play today.

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