Why Play is Beneficial for Health, Mind and Body
Between the constant demands of work and family, it often seems like there's little or no time for play in our daily lives. There is growing evidence to suggest that play – the type of joyful, unstructured physical activity that we typically associate with young children – can have significant health, mind and body benefits for adults as well.
The constant movement and physical activity encouraged by play have obvious advantages for your body, such as mitigating the effects of stress. That's because play helps to release the body's natural endorphins, which contribute to your overall sense of pleasure and well-being. That's right – playing with your pet or hanging out playing games in the park also releases the same endorphins that are released after a run.
What's less well known is that playing can also help to free up your creativity and imagination. In the workplace, so much focus is placed on bottom-line results and productivity, that we sometimes lose sight of how important play can be for creating a more innovative workplace. Ever wonder why some startup companies have beanbags instead of chairs in the office or football tables located near the snack room? That's right – spontaneous play and the freedom to act young can spark your creativity and imagination.
Play can also keep you feeling young and energetic, improving your overall mental health. It's not how young you are; it's how young you feel. Going on random bike rides with friends or co-workers, going on a play date with a young child (or grandchild), or just playing in the neighborhood park with your pet are all ways of improving your mental health through play. Even 30 minutes of play can help to relieve stress, stimulate your mind, and improve your social skills.
Put play into action
So what can you do if you want to obtain all these benefits of play for health, mind and body?
First, stop thinking in terms of structured experiences. The full benefits of play are only possible when you stop viewing everything as an event with a specific goal in mind. Think of play the way a small child would – it just feels good to be running around, living life in the moment.
Secondly, be willing to open up to others with a new, more playful personality. This is perhaps the hardest part, since society forces us to treat everything so seriously once we pass into adulthood. But even something as simple as sharing a joke with a random stranger, or goofing around with young kids can help you feel more confident about engaging in play with others.
Thirdly, look for ways to build play into your daily schedule. Just as you'd schedule a daily workout or a lunch with friends, you can schedule "play time." Everybody has different ways to express this concept – "me time" or "personal time" are just two popular options – but it generally just refers to a block of unstructured time to recharge the mind and body. All the better if this "me time" also includes physical activity.
By unlocking all the benefits of play, you will feel better, think better and have a more positive outlook on life. At both home and the office, you may even see a boost in your imagination and creativity and new types of problem-solving skills that you never thought you had.