Why adults should have more play time

Why adults should have more play time

Do you want to improve your performance at work? Be smarter and more adaptable? Have a better relationship with your partner? Find your bliss? Then start playing.

The benefits of play are seemingly obvious: it’s fun and it makes you feel good. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Research is also showing that play is also an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being.

As children, play was just something we did naturally, but as we get older we are play seems frivolous, unproductive, and a waste of time. The play that remains, like an occasional game of tennis is mostly organised, rigid and competitive.

If you want to introduce more play into your life but don’t know how to start, Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play suggests by firstly taking your play history. Start this exercise by spending some time thinking about what you did as a child that really got you excited. Brown also suggests asking yourself some questions such as:

  • When have you felt free to do and be what you choose?
  • Is that part of your life now? If not, why not?
  • How free are you now as you play with your partner, friends or family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?

The opportunity for play is everywhere, the trick, says Brown is to have a playful approach to life. “Probably the biggest roadblock to play for adults is the worry that they will look silly. Or they think that it is immature to give themselves regularly over to play.” The joke is – as neuroscientists, biologists, psychologists and social scientists have shown for decades – that the act of play can significantly improve your skills, performance, relationships and productivity.

Learning doesn’t stop when you reach adulthood, and neither should play. “There is evidence that there is a play deficit much like the sleep deficit,” says Brown, adding that “with enough play, the brain works better. One study done at Syracuse University showed that for people who had the most cognitive activity (doing puzzles, reading, engaging in mentally challenging work) the chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease were 63 per cent lower than the general population. Another study done in Okinawa, Japan, by the National Geographic Society revealed that engaging in activities like playing with young children was as important as diet and exercise in fostering longevity.

“If anyone goes without play for too long, grinding out the work that is expected of them, they will at some point look at their lives and ask “Is this all there is?” says Brown. “Joy is our birthright. When we lack that feeling of lightness in what we do it should be taken as a warning sign.”



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