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How Play Can Change Your Life For The Better — And 6 Ways To Foster It

Play is defined as an “activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” But we have another opinion for you: It’s actually both!

Play does not exist to further our careers or increase our bank accounts, but it certainly is not lacking in purpose! Growing up, play was how we started developing fundamental skills like counting, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and sharing. Not to mention, it’s one of the ways we keep those skills growing throughout adulthood!

Some of the things adults are best at include worrying, overthinking, and stressing. How incredible would it be if the antidote was channeling our former childlike wonder?

Well, it might just be that easy! Engaging in play won’t take away our problems, but studies show that it can reduce our stress, improve our coping skills, and even heighten job satisfaction. It also helps us avoid burnout, boosts those endorphins, stimulates our creativity, and even brings healing and excitement back into our relationships.

So how do we bring play back into our lives? Here are six ways to get you started!

1. Rediscover your hobbies.

The best way to make time for play is to actually make time for play.

Make a plan to reignite old passions for old hobbies! Dust off that softball glove you haven’t used in years, join an adult kickball team, go to a pottery class, or break out that ancient paint set. Do whatever it is that makes you feel the most you!

2. Go out on a limb.

After you’ve tried out some old hobbies, maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons and try something new and unexpected!

Test out a new cuisine one night a week, explore a new exhibit at a museum, or try out the new rock climbing gym around the corner. Keep things fresh and interesting, and keep yourself on your toes!

3. Get social.

Nearly everything is extra fun with friends, so make it a group effort! Plan weekly dinners where everyone cooks up something new, start up a bowling league, or simply invite a pal out for a spontaneous picnic. Bring a little excitement back into your relationships, and have a great time doing it!

4. Hang out with kids.

Whether it’s your own kids, your nieces and nephews, or your best friend’s little ones, there’s no quicker way to remember how to play than by watching the experts.

Grab some sidewalk chalk, play with a deck of cards, build a sandcastle, or simply look at cloud shapes in the sky! It doesn’t take much to get back into a child’s pure, imaginative mindset. 

5. Play games. 

Nothing makes us feel like a kid again faster than playing a game, whether it’s a round of UNO, a competitive board game, or a weekly family soccer match. Or maybe for you, it’s something like a new brainteaser during your train commute, a 2,000-piece puzzle, or frisbee with your pup.

Whether it’s sweeping out the dust in those areas of your brain that you haven’t used in a while or getting outside and getting active, both are equally valid means of play!

6. Don’t take things so seriously.

Remember the wonder you had as a kid when a butterfly caught your eye or a rainbow appeared in the sky? Get that wonder back! Seek out the little moments of joy and gratefulness in the tiniest moments of your day. Stop and smell the roses. Don’t always be in such a hurry, but rather take life as it comes.

When a catchy tune comes on, dance! When something goes well for someone else, celebrate! Cultivate a positive attitude and carry it with you as you navigate the setbacks and stressors in your day. 

When life gets hard, we sometimes feel an obligation to carry that heaviness and seriousness around with us – and sometimes that’s necessary. But so many things don’t have to be as hard as we make them!

Play is all about learning to be flexible again, stretching that creative muscle, shedding some of the emotional weight you’ve been carrying, and reminding yourself how young at heart you really are.

So try out some of these tips, share them with your friends, and get back to playing.

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