The Power of Play

“Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder – in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.”  ~Stuart Brown, MD

When did you last get out and play…just plain play like you did when you were a child?

I’m the kind of person who, in my free time, reads books about conscious relationships and the effect of nature on the brain. I’m driven to learn more, develop and grow. I definitely have a serious side to me and I’m quite dutiful in many aspects of life; so if I’m unaware I’ll forget to give myself a break to play.

This happened not long ago. During a meditation I connected to my inner child and she almost screamed inside of me, “When will you take me out and play with others?!” That’s when I signed up for the swing dance Lindy Hop and I’m brimming with joy during each class.

Play is by definition a pleasurable activity undertaken for no apparent purpose. I find that when I play, I’m completely absorbed and I don’t think about anything else other than what I’m doing in the moment. As I engage in play with others I can see their inner child shine through the adults they’ve become. Their eyes sparkle in a special way and their laughter sounds carefree.

Just like I believe it’s essential to work with your inner child to heal and grow; it’s just as important to nurture it and connect with your playfulness. Play creates excitement, wonder and spontaneity. It makes you feel alive and it’s the stuff you’ll remember later on. It connects you with other people on a deeper level and it just feels good.

Stuart Brown, MD, founder of the National Institute for Play in California, notes “Play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep, so when we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice.” When we don’t play it might manifest in states of dullness, depression or anxiety.

Dr. Brown also points out “What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome.”

For many that is the challenge – to actually carve out time and allow oneself to play – since we’re constantly told to be productive and purposeful in everything we’re doing. In many cases it’s almost like our to-do lists have become the ruling aspects of our lives.

If you’re out of practice with play I recommend thinking back to when you were a child and ask yourself:

“What did you enjoy to do when you were a child?”
“What makes you feel good and light?’
“What were you doing the last time you really laughed and felt carefree?’

Consider this an invitation to go out and play!

Luise is a mindfulness coach who supports men & women to embody their personal power so they can live a fully expressed, wholehearted and meaningful life. She recently returned to Europe after having lived five years in Thailand, spending more than 4,000 hours immersed in mind and body practices. You can connect with her on her website, on Facebook, and on Instagram where she explores her passion for mindful photography.

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