The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression.” Says Dr. Stuart Brown
We have been conditioned to believe that play is exclusively for children. Growing up comes with such ‘serious’ connotations. Play is also essential for adults to engage in for their mental and physical wellbeing. Our society has conditioned us to believe that play is irresponsible, and even shameful. Well… neuroscience doesn’t agree!
Dr Stuart Brown describes play as purposeless, all consuming and fun.
Play can be seen as any activity that’s not over focused on the outcome. Whilst play is essential for building social skills, its important that play is chosen by the individual rather than imposed on by others. If we loose focus of the play, and shift our attention to coming first in a game or doing it to fit in or to please others, then we lose the benefits associated with play. Essentially, that sucks the joy out of play!
Engaging in a childlike sense of wonder can be so restorative for adults. Giving yourself permission to see the world from an explorative and open hearted position allows you to break free from the mundane every day grind.
We need to remember that being childlike, is very different to being childish. Childish can have such negative connotations for adults, we do not want to be seen as reckless, foolish or behaving in a way that’s inappropriate for our age. Not paying your bills, name-calling, throwing tantrums, can all fall into the category of childish behavior. Childlike behavior might be your delight and enthusiasm when engaging with your new hobby. There is a key distinction between the two; being childlike allows for a sense of curiosity and openness, whereas childish evokes the immature and badly behaved image.
How could you add more light to your day? What playful fun solutions could you include in your daily routine that would bring you joy? Think back to what brought you joy when you were younger, adapting that child’s sense of wonder and exploration can help you see the world in a different light.
Here are some suggestions for you to try out:
- Create a play date for yourself and friends
- Blindfold drawing- Draw something random and cover your eyes while you do it so your inner critic cannot take over!
- Dance like your favorite animal
- Dance to your favourite song, in an opposite style e.g: listen to lizzo, whilst waltzing!
- Get messy and finger paint, or keep it clean and colour in a colouring book!
- Get dressed up in fancy dress and stay in character.
Embrace your silly side, open to more joy, allow yourself the space to heal in the process!
Brown & Vaughan, 2009. Play, How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul.