How to Develop a Playful Approach to Life
By developing a playful approach to life, you can awaken your mind and reach a new state of consciousness. That's because play changes and rewires your brain so that you become more receptive to new ideas, become more creative, and are better able to deal with stress in your everyday life.
Taking that on board, here are four ways to develop a playful approach to life that can help to awaken your mind:
#1: Embrace spontaneity
One way to develop a more playful approach to life is to embrace spontaneity and randomness in your daily schedule. Read a magazine that you've never read before. Talk to someone new in your office. Reconnect with a friend that you haven't spoken with recently. Take a different route on your daily commute. Play a game you are familiar with but change the rules on-the-fly. Doing so could open your mind to new ideas, new trends or new developments, thereby triggering your creativity.
Taking this more playful, spontaneous approach to life frees you up to think in ways that you didn't think were possible. Neuroscience researchers have demonstrated the remarkable "plasticity" of the human mind – the ability of people to rewire and reprogram their minds later in life. Each act of spontaneity rewires your neural circuits, helping you stimulate your brain. So, it's simply not the case that you have to be set in your ways as you age. You don't have to be the same mindset your entire adult life.
#2: Turn life into a game
Another way to develop a more playful approach to life is to turn complicated or tedious tasks into a game. This is a well-known technique known as "gamification" that has been used for everything from getting people to change their diets to getting people to exercise more. Your mind acts differently and is more easily motivated when it thinks it's playing a game. Creating the game changes the context, the goals and the path to attaining a particular goal.
If going for a run, create new checkpoints not just based on distance covered but set other achievements - such as sprinting as fast as possible between two trees, pretend to chase the jogger in front of you, interact with your environment by turning it into your playground. Have fun!
By turning routine activities into a game, the way you approach life changes, and your mind awakens. You will find yourself chuckling at life's oddities, being engaged in the moment, and taking a positive view of setbacks in your life.
#3: Reconnect with nature
You can also develop a more playful approach to life by spending more time in the outdoors engaged in activities that are child-like. This could be going for a picnic in the park, playing tag, flying a kite, going barefoot in the grass or climbing a tree with friends or family. The key is to think like a child to recapture the blissful state of early childhood, when you lived in the moment and had real fun, perhaps even laughing out loud, or giggling about what you've just done.
That's where the mental health and stress benefits come in. You will find that you are more confident, more energized and more alive when you are playing and enjoying life. Laughter is the best stress reducer - the best medicine. Scientists have found that being engaged in play also helps to release your brain's chemical neurotransmitters, including those that help you feel good.
#4: The Flow State
In many ways, using the concept of play to awaken your mind is similar to what the famous psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi once defined as "flow" - the process of being in a highly focused mental state to achieve an optimal experience.
For flow to occur, the undertaking must take place according to Csikszentmihalyi (1987):
- require skills that are challenging - the sweet spot between not too easy or too difficult,
- merge action and awareness - feeling at one with the activity,
- provide clear goals and feedback - success and failure is immediate in every step,
- require concentration and absorption of attention deep into an activity,
- provide an individual with personal control over the act - without worry or anxiety,
- effortlessness - there is harmony and ease, it's made to look easy even though it is not,
- causes a person to lose all track of time - time seems compressed or expanded,
- provide intrinsic rewards, an autotelic quality meaning the goal is rewarding as well as the activity itself,
- loss of self-consciousness and ego.
When you are playing, you are in this state of "flow" – you are performing without regard to others and feeling more focused, energized and alive. For that reason, developing a playful approach to life is one way to awaken your mind and give yourself a fresh start in reaching your goals. This flow state doesn't happen overnight indeed it needs to be 'worked' on, hence why flow is really about the art of serious play.