The Power of Play

Play is healthy and healing. We know that intuitively because we feel it. If it doesn’t feel good, it’s not play.

Unfortunately, as we grow up and get serious about our education, our livelihood, our relationships, we get disconnected from play. We tend shift into a mindset that play is the domain of children or pets, and a luxury we can’t pursue in our serious efforts at adulting.

It’s time reclaim the joy and pleasure of play, recognizing that it’s actually essential for our well-being. That’s right, playing is self-care! I like the sound of that, don’t you?

What Is Play, Anyway?

Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, studies the subject extensively and wrote a 2009 book titled Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. (He came to the topic from a surprising angle: He was studying the lives of mass murderers and concluded that they share a common lack of childhood play.)

Here’s how he defines play:

An absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self consciousness and sense of time. It is self motivating and makes you want to do it again.


Let’s break this definition down a bit…

  • Apparently purposeless: done for its own sake. Activities don’t seem to have value.
  • Voluntary: not required or obligatory.
  • Inherent attraction: it is fun, it feels good.
  • Freedom from time: you lose sense of time when you are engaged in play.
  • Diminished sense of self: you stop thinking, you’re fully in the moment.
  • Improvisational: There isn’t one rigid way of doing things. You never know what is going to happen.
  • Continuation desire: We want to keep doing it because it is pleasurable and rewarding.
  • There is no way to understand play without remembering the feeling of play: It’s a state of being.

And of course, it’s different for everyone. The woman who loses herself for hours fly fishing on a Wyoming river might pull out her hair if she were engaging in online gaming all afternoon.

What Does Play Mean to You?

If you are curious about infusing your life with a little bit of purposeless, enjoyable delight, stop and think:

What you did as a child that got you really excited? What gave you joy? What did you love to do, that you’d do for hours?

Linger in the memory—connect with that state of being! Guess what, you have just added a little play to your day.

Are You Ready to Play?

Play is vitally important. It keeps your brain healthy, flexible and growing. It makes you a better problem solver. It energizes and enlivens you. It renews your natural sense of optimism.

How will you infuse your day with play? You will enjoy it—I pinky, pinky promise! 😉


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