Sing like no one is listening.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching
and live like it’s heaven on earth.
Attributed to many including Mark Twain, Satchel Paige, and William Purkey
The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself.
Stuart Brown (from Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul)
I recently read an article by Marsha Lederman in the Globe and Mail describing the experiences of some well-known personalities and what they attribute their success to within their respective fields. Although success requires focused attention and work, these individuals credited their success in part, to interruptions that took them off course for a period of time. One of the strategies that was particularly effective was play.
The great thing about play is that is has no purpose other than pure enjoyment. There is no deliverable; no specified outcome, no particular reason to do it other than to have fun. And when you are truly having fun, you are very much in the moment. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be around young children can easily see the benefits of play, even if it is not possible for us to climb the monkey bars or go down the slide at the park. It is sheer joy to watch children engrossed in physical or imaginative play. But I think many of us have either forgotten how to play or see it as an extra- one of those things we may do when we have time. The “important stuff” of course is our work and fulfilling our responsibilities- whatever those happen to be. If play is something children do, then surely adults who play risk looking childish. Right?
Psychiatrist, Stuart Brown has devoted a good deal of his research to play and he found that play is essential for brain development and learning to problem solve. Play also impacts our ability to be creative and the effects of play last well into adulthood. So is play just for children? Absolutely not! I think play can reveal something about who we are. It’s as if the layers peel back and that eight year old who is full of fun, emerges. For adults, play or having fun can mean a whole range of things such cycling, doing crosswords, painting, listening to music, exploring the neighbourhood; hosting a potluck; or trying something completely new. One thing I did a couple of years back with friends was take an African drumming lesson! It was so fun! And I know one family whose neighbourhood used to organize family dance nights.
Play can also be an easy and fun way to step out of our comfort zones- a great skill when we are contemplating bigger adventures in our lives. Being a bit silly is not something all of us warm up to but I think it can be cultivated with a bit of practice. Life is serious enough without adding to it. Think about it. When was the last time you really let your hair down and had fun? Laughing from your belly; doing something silly; outrageously joyous?
If fun is a habit we have lost, we may want to start with small steps. Am I saying we need to get out and do something we are really not comfortable doing? No. But maybe we can go beyond the usual things we do that may have turned into habits (e.g. a movie; out for dinner) and take it up a notch. Maybe we start singing out loud to that favourite song of ours or dance around the kitchen! There is always work to do – paid and unpaid. There are always responsibilities. But in the end, no one wishes they had worked harder or longer. And everyone can recall the times they were fully present in a playful moment- especially with those who are dear to them.
So let’s get serious about play and have fun. It is surely another condition to have in place in order to attract wonderful possibilities in our life. Start with the body and perhaps find an ally and play!
And in the meantime I am going to crank up the music and sing Rolling in the Deep along with Adele!