(Health Secrets) The word ‘play’ conjures up happy images of childhood, and these days there is a great emphasis on making sure children don’t lose out on valuable playtime. But what about adults? Should they also take time to play?
Playing is as crucial to maintaining our physical and mental health as getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy diet and taking regular exercise, yet many adults stop playing sometime in their late teens or twenties, swapping playtime for mor e serious responsibilities. Depression, stress related illnesses, and a variety of other health issues may arise from an adult life devoid of play.
What are the health benefits of play?
Playtime has the power to reduce stress and offers a wide variety of health benefits. Here are three of the main categories:
- Emotional benefits. Play teaches us enjoyment, fun and love of life. It helps us to manage and transform negative emotions into something more positive. Play provides an antidote to feelings of loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression by triggering endorphins in the brain.
- Social benefits. Play can increase our self confidence and self esteem, allowing us to interact more easily with other people. Sharing laughter and enjoyment with others enhances our sense of community and helps us to develop trusting, compassionate relationships. Many believe that play can be a powerful antidote to violence, and it is known to heal resentment and emotional wounds.
- Physical benefits. Depending on the type of play, there can be many physical benefits. Kicking a soccer ball around the park or flying a kite is a great way to get outside and get some exercise, and tends to be more pleasurable than hitting the gym. Play can help to release energy and reduce tension, which can prevent the development of physical complaints.
Playing at work
Studies have shown that taking a break from work and finding some hours to play in your leisure time is not only a great way to reduce stress, but can also reduce the number of sick days taken and increase performance in the office. But what about actual play time during work? We spend a huge proportion of our lives at work, and seeing it as somewhere that play is forbidden may have a negative impact on our health.
Working longer and harder, without incorporating any fun or relaxation into your schedule will only result in burnout. Take time to have some fun with your colleagues; get outside for a walk during your lunch hour, arrange an office sporting activity from time to time, or simply hold an office quiz or lighthearted contest.
Incorporating play into your work schedule helps you through stressful situations, refreshes mind and body, helps team building and problem solving, inspires creativity and increases energy levels.
How can I start to play again?
If you haven’t really played since you left school, the idea of starting again can be a little daunting. Here are some simple ways you can start to include play in your day to day life:
- Remember what you loved doing as a child or teenager. If you were passionate about a particular sport, loved flying model airplanes, spent hours bike riding, enjoyed painting or felt happy playing the piano, try to pick up where you left off.
- Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Just being outside can be enough to ignite that playful spark in most of us, but if you need a push, head down to your local playground. You’ve probably forgotten how great being on a swing feels.
- Buy something to focus your play such as a Frisbee, football, or kite. This type of play is perfect for the whole family, and if you go to a public park you can encourage others to join in too.
- Don’t forget board games; they can be a great way to liven up a family evening in winter and the perfect alternative to sitting in front of the TV. If you don’t have board games just play something like charades to really get you laughing.
- Dancing and movement are a great way to play, and yoga or aerobic exercise classes can provide a structured way to play to music. Alternatively, just put on your favorite tunes and dance around the living room.