Let’s Play a Game (Not a Drinking One, Sorry)
When was the last time you let yourself play? I don’t just mean candy crush on your phone. I mean the ways little kids create whole worlds in the sandbox and travel time and space in their backyards and under pillow forts. I mean the ways you used to let your imagination run buck wild with your imaginary friends before the dawn of Instagram and Twitter. When was the last time you embraced the uncertainty of where your mind might take you when it’s not tethered by work calls, responsibilities, and schedules? Jump on Captain Hook’s ship, McFly’s Delorean, The Bridge to Terabithia, wardrobe to Narnia, and chip away at some of the grit that’s hardened in you from decades of adulting. Play time may not just be for kids and even when it is, we all can see how much it helps them develop social skills, their creativity, their sense of self. It can also do that for us. Making sure we have time for leisure consistently and throughout our entire lives as we get closer and closer to our scary age (mine is 75) is an act of self love. It is empowering to know that, yes, we can be rigid and disciplined when life calls for it, but more importantly, we are well-rounded and full of joy. We are flexible, adaptable, creative, free-spirited and we will remind everyone over and over again, age is just a number because we are kids at heart.
Let’s make time to unhinge our imagination, let it zoom past the spreadsheets and pitch decks and to-do lists written in scribble on your refrigerator whiteboard. Past the needs of everyone else around you, past the laundry you have yet to do, the closet you have to organize, the shows you have yet to watch. Play can happen spontaneously, but let’s be honest, our days are hectic and busy and who the hell is going to tell their boss or their partner, “Hey, yeah, I need the day off so I can go unwind and play around.” Instead, we need to start carving this time out for ourselves, without needing approval, permission or encouragement to enjoy the moment. What is the point of a tight schedule if it’s not serving our entire beings. We are not just robots meant to stay productive and efficient for our overlords at all times. We need to give ourselves room to feel free, to feel uninhibited and limitless. This room may, in turn, make us better versions of ourselves when we do have to hunker down and deal with our responsibilities. Think of it as just free form journaling, even subconsciously, you might find yourself finding wayward paths towards happiness.
Power Tip 1: Play it Cool
The thing is, most of us aren’t actually desperate for playtime, we have already found ways to incorporate it into our daily lives even if we don’t realize it. We daydream, laugh with our friends at memes we have no business finding funny, we hum while we cook, we sing while we shower, we act out movie scenes to get a point across, we dance, we text, we dress up, we doodle, we dress down, we go on rollercoasters (emotional and otherwise), we even spends thousands of dollars to go to a Caribbean Island or top of some ski mountain, and we’ve made it an irrevocable labor practice to give workers vacation time.
We need to realize how valuable this time actually is. We need to start aligning ourselves with our deeper needs and not feeling any shame or regret for spending time flexing like this. Cultivating a happy, joyful, positive attitude does not happen by accident. It’s the culmination of a million little decisions to make sure you get to hangout with your friends or plan a trip to Tulum. A life full of gratitude for even the smallest, everyday things, is found when you let your mind breathe through any difficulties with some distraction.
Power Tip 2: Play it Safe
Adult play doesn’t have to be extreme sports or daring adventures into the wild. I know we think that we’re too mature to be creatively stimulated by the same things as little kids but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s a whole movement where adults find peace and comfort in doing coloring books. You can sing and dance for no reason in your bedroom. You can let yourself day dream as you sit down for lunch. You can let the speckled light of a nice Autumn day inspire you to go walk on a trail you’ve never been on before.
Experience the unexpected so your mind can decompress from it’s regular stresses and try out new avenues of excitement. Create new mental connections by starting DIY projects or looking at the space around you and wondering what else it could be, what else it could look like. Maybe your garage can become your new workout studio, your painting loft, your meditation room. Join team sports, activity groups, community organizers, to forge new social connections and learn more about yourself along the way. Pay very close attention to whatever it is that keeps you smiling and joyful throughout the day and do not let it go, you will especially need it in the darker times.
Power Tip 3: Play It Smart
Play can improve brain functions. This is where your iPhone might come in. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress, depression and anxiety. Active play can trigger the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that can go as far as relieving pain. You can foster empathy, compassion, trust and intimacy with other people when you make new friends or spend quality time goofing around with your old ones.
Host a game night with your coworkers. Chase your dog around your home and throw a yarn ball in your cat’s direction. Joke with strangers and hangout with your kids or your friends’ kids more often. Play also isn’t just a specific activity, it’s a state of mind. A playful nature is one rooted in being comfortable with yourself and your thoughts, letting yourself enjoy the present without worry of the future, empowering your mind to think freely.
Real talk: Having fun and enjoying yourself is the key to confidence. Spend some time indulging in joyful abandon, the kind that kids have mastered, and just watch yourself evolve into a more positive, fulfilled person.
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