Why do we play?
The truth is, play isn’t just for children. In fact, it’s one of the most beneficial things we can do at any age. Play helps us to grow and discover new possibilities, heal our minds and bodies, boost creativity and relate better to the world around us.
Yet we’re often taught that play is a frivolity, or something that belongs only to our early years. As a result, many of us don’t prioritise play in our daily lives.
Here’s why it’s so important to play – and how to bring more playfulness into your life.
The benefits of play
As children, play helps us to understand our world. And as adults too, play allows us to learn new ways of operating. Through cultivating curiosity, play enables us to see things differently. It gives us an opportunity to take risks within safe parameters and to explore and make mistakes. This helps us to find fresh approaches and imaginative solutions, building skills we can take into everyday life.
Play also feels good. Shifting into ‘play mode’ is a great natural high. It connects us to fantasy, fun, spontaneity and a feeling of freedom. Play helps us to loosen up and relate to the more sensory and creative parts of ourselves.
In this way, play allows us to enter another state of being, where the focus is purely on pleasure. Western society is highly achievement-oriented. Letting go of responsibilities and outcomes for a while provides a necessary counter to our busy lives, allowing us to reset and recalibrate.
In this way, play is fundamentally healing. At the wider and individual level, we may be experiencing pain, suffering and uncertainty. But play is a powerful antidote, helping us to find joy and ease even when the world is difficult.
This isn’t a matter of blocking things out or pretending everything is okay. It’s simply about remembering that there is always light within the darkness. Connecting to our spiritedness through play helps to restore our minds and bodies. When we tap into playfulness, we open to greater presence and connection with our surroundings, engaging fully with the present moment. This helps us to meet the challenges of life with fresh vigour.
In these myriad ways, play makes us feel alive and uplifted. No matter what we are experiencing, play helps us to find our vibrancy and enjoy all that makes life worth living.
Bringing play to life
The following are great ways to explore a deeper connection with play:
Give yourself permission
Giving yourself permission to play is the most important – and sometimes the most challenging – thing to do. It can be tricky to set aside responsibilities and focus purely on enjoyment. Remember, though, that play has real value. Creating regular time to play is an act of self-love and a wonderful way to boost happiness and wellbeing.
Connect with childhood joys
What were your favourite games as a child? From imaginary scenarios to playing sports or solving puzzles, our childhood joys reveal deep aspects of our characters. Think about what you loved to do when you were younger. This is a great starting point for exploring what kind of play you might find rewarding as an adult.
Adopt a playful approach
Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity. While it’s important to take time out just for play, it’s also wonderful to integrate playfulness into daily life. A playful approach isn’t about not taking things seriously. Instead, it’s about connecting in a joyful and curious way with our environment, work and relationships. Playfulness helps us to view life in fresh ways, to find inventive approaches to challenges, and to gain balance and perspective.