Grown-ups Need to Play Too

Reviewed Mar 6, 2017

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Summary

Play:

  • Decreases stress reactions
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lifts mood and fights boredom
  • Inspires creativity

Take a minute to think about your life—how might you describe it in a few words? Are you more likely to choose “joyful” and “rewarding” or “stressful” and “boring”? If your words have a negative tone, you might be missing an important ingredient for optimum health and happiness—play.

Family counselor Chris Martin explains, “Today, most adults have acclimated themselves to busy schedules that allow little or no time for rest and recreation or play. The impact of this accumulates gradually so that we rarely notice it until there's a problem in relationships or with our health—physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. We're like the proverbial frog in boiling water: We don't jump out ‘til we're cooked!”

The benefits of play

It’s easy for adults to think that playing is just for kids—that life is serious and time spent must be productive. The irony is, engaging in play every day will help you make the most of your time at home and at work. Play theorists have determined that play:

  • Decreases stress reactions
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lifts mood and fights boredom
  • Increases energy and productivity
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Inspires creativity

Perhaps you are careful to eat right, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Why not add regular play to your self-care regimen and see how it affects you for the better?

Defining play

Psychiatrist Lenore Terr sees play as “crucial to successful, healthy adult living” and defines it as “activity aimed at having fun.” That might be just enough information to help you come up with ways to put play into your day. Go for what you think is fun!

If you need more to help you brainstorm possibilities, consider the advice of psychiatrist Stuart Brown—to look back at your early, joyful, playful memories and recall those emotions and activities. Were you happiest while coloring, dancing, wrestling, pretending, building with blocks, etc.? Dr. Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, explains that play researchers have identified seven categories of play that are vital for healthy development and continued well-being:

  • Attunement play: laughing together, making faces at each other, staring contests
  • Body play: leaping, wiggling, dancing, climbing, and other movements
  • Object play: tinkering with an appliance, building a model, skipping rocks
  • Social play: board and card games, team sports, tag
  • Imaginative and pretend play: charades, role-playing just for fun, daydreaming
  • Storytelling-narrative play: telling campfire tales, writing poems, keeping a journal
  • Creative play: painting, sculpting, making up music, inventing for the fun of it

Dr. Brown adds that each person has a unique “play personality”—certain styles of play will appeal to you more than others. The point is to find what brings you pleasure.

Getting unstuck

Start with an honest look at your life. Are you having any fun? If not, why not? What can you do to change that? Maybe you can start with small changes such as:

  • Try a game night with family and friends.
  • Visit a toy store or arts supply store and see what appeals to you.
  • Brainstorm a fun break at work with your co-workers—a safe, friendly office Olympics perhaps.
  • Engage your child in a staring contest—or your spouse in a week-long game of “got you last” pokes.
  • Check your community recreational programs for dance classes or other activities you might enjoy.

Mr. Martin suggests that you:

  • Make a spreadsheet listing all of your activities for a week and note where your time goes. 
  • Consider how you can reorder your time to include predictable, consistent opportunities for rest and renewal (play). 
  • Put your new plan into practice. 

“Like the gradual accumulation of stress and fatigue, the benefits of rest and play will also accumulate gradually,” Mr. Martin cautions. So be patient and persistent with your new plan while the benefits accumulate. 

Resource

National Institute for Play
www.nifplay.org

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Chris Martin, DMin, BCPC, Transformation Counseling, Charlottesville, Va.; Stuart Brown, MD, lecture at 2008 Art Center Design conference, Calif., www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html; Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play by Lenore Terr. Simon & Schuster, 2000; National Institute for Play, www.nifplay.org; Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. Penguin Group, 2009

Summary

Play:

  • Decreases stress reactions
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lifts mood and fights boredom
  • Inspires creativity

Take a minute to think about your life—how might you describe it in a few words? Are you more likely to choose “joyful” and “rewarding” or “stressful” and “boring”? If your words have a negative tone, you might be missing an important ingredient for optimum health and happiness—play.

Family counselor Chris Martin explains, “Today, most adults have acclimated themselves to busy schedules that allow little or no time for rest and recreation or play. The impact of this accumulates gradually so that we rarely notice it until there's a problem in relationships or with our health—physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. We're like the proverbial frog in boiling water: We don't jump out ‘til we're cooked!”

The benefits of play

It’s easy for adults to think that playing is just for kids—that life is serious and time spent must be productive. The irony is, engaging in play every day will help you make the most of your time at home and at work. Play theorists have determined that play:

  • Decreases stress reactions
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lifts mood and fights boredom
  • Increases energy and productivity
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Inspires creativity

Perhaps you are careful to eat right, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Why not add regular play to your self-care regimen and see how it affects you for the better?

Defining play

Psychiatrist Lenore Terr sees play as “crucial to successful, healthy adult living” and defines it as “activity aimed at having fun.” That might be just enough information to help you come up with ways to put play into your day. Go for what you think is fun!

If you need more to help you brainstorm possibilities, consider the advice of psychiatrist Stuart Brown—to look back at your early, joyful, playful memories and recall those emotions and activities. Were you happiest while coloring, dancing, wrestling, pretending, building with blocks, etc.? Dr. Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, explains that play researchers have identified seven categories of play that are vital for healthy development and continued well-being:

  • Attunement play: laughing together, making faces at each other, staring contests
  • Body play: leaping, wiggling, dancing, climbing, and other movements
  • Object play: tinkering with an appliance, building a model, skipping rocks
  • Social play: board and card games, team sports, tag
  • Imaginative and pretend play: charades, role-playing just for fun, daydreaming
  • Storytelling-narrative play: telling campfire tales, writing poems, keeping a journal
  • Creative play: painting, sculpting, making up music, inventing for the fun of it

Dr. Brown adds that each person has a unique “play personality”—certain styles of play will appeal to you more than others. The point is to find what brings you pleasure.

Getting unstuck

Start with an honest look at your life. Are you having any fun? If not, why not? What can you do to change that? Maybe you can start with small changes such as:

  • Try a game night with family and friends.
  • Visit a toy store or arts supply store and see what appeals to you.
  • Brainstorm a fun break at work with your co-workers—a safe, friendly office Olympics perhaps.
  • Engage your child in a staring contest—or your spouse in a week-long game of “got you last” pokes.
  • Check your community recreational programs for dance classes or other activities you might enjoy.

Mr. Martin suggests that you:

  • Make a spreadsheet listing all of your activities for a week and note where your time goes. 
  • Consider how you can reorder your time to include predictable, consistent opportunities for rest and renewal (play). 
  • Put your new plan into practice. 

“Like the gradual accumulation of stress and fatigue, the benefits of rest and play will also accumulate gradually,” Mr. Martin cautions. So be patient and persistent with your new plan while the benefits accumulate. 

Resource

National Institute for Play
www.nifplay.org

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Chris Martin, DMin, BCPC, Transformation Counseling, Charlottesville, Va.; Stuart Brown, MD, lecture at 2008 Art Center Design conference, Calif., www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html; Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play by Lenore Terr. Simon & Schuster, 2000; National Institute for Play, www.nifplay.org; Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. Penguin Group, 2009

Summary

Play:

  • Decreases stress reactions
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lifts mood and fights boredom
  • Inspires creativity

Take a minute to think about your life—how might you describe it in a few words? Are you more likely to choose “joyful” and “rewarding” or “stressful” and “boring”? If your words have a negative tone, you might be missing an important ingredient for optimum health and happiness—play.

Family counselor Chris Martin explains, “Today, most adults have acclimated themselves to busy schedules that allow little or no time for rest and recreation or play. The impact of this accumulates gradually so that we rarely notice it until there's a problem in relationships or with our health—physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. We're like the proverbial frog in boiling water: We don't jump out ‘til we're cooked!”

The benefits of play

It’s easy for adults to think that playing is just for kids—that life is serious and time spent must be productive. The irony is, engaging in play every day will help you make the most of your time at home and at work. Play theorists have determined that play:

  • Decreases stress reactions
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Lifts mood and fights boredom
  • Increases energy and productivity
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Inspires creativity

Perhaps you are careful to eat right, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Why not add regular play to your self-care regimen and see how it affects you for the better?

Defining play

Psychiatrist Lenore Terr sees play as “crucial to successful, healthy adult living” and defines it as “activity aimed at having fun.” That might be just enough information to help you come up with ways to put play into your day. Go for what you think is fun!

If you need more to help you brainstorm possibilities, consider the advice of psychiatrist Stuart Brown—to look back at your early, joyful, playful memories and recall those emotions and activities. Were you happiest while coloring, dancing, wrestling, pretending, building with blocks, etc.? Dr. Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, explains that play researchers have identified seven categories of play that are vital for healthy development and continued well-being:

  • Attunement play: laughing together, making faces at each other, staring contests
  • Body play: leaping, wiggling, dancing, climbing, and other movements
  • Object play: tinkering with an appliance, building a model, skipping rocks
  • Social play: board and card games, team sports, tag
  • Imaginative and pretend play: charades, role-playing just for fun, daydreaming
  • Storytelling-narrative play: telling campfire tales, writing poems, keeping a journal
  • Creative play: painting, sculpting, making up music, inventing for the fun of it

Dr. Brown adds that each person has a unique “play personality”—certain styles of play will appeal to you more than others. The point is to find what brings you pleasure.

Getting unstuck

Start with an honest look at your life. Are you having any fun? If not, why not? What can you do to change that? Maybe you can start with small changes such as:

  • Try a game night with family and friends.
  • Visit a toy store or arts supply store and see what appeals to you.
  • Brainstorm a fun break at work with your co-workers—a safe, friendly office Olympics perhaps.
  • Engage your child in a staring contest—or your spouse in a week-long game of “got you last” pokes.
  • Check your community recreational programs for dance classes or other activities you might enjoy.

Mr. Martin suggests that you:

  • Make a spreadsheet listing all of your activities for a week and note where your time goes. 
  • Consider how you can reorder your time to include predictable, consistent opportunities for rest and renewal (play). 
  • Put your new plan into practice. 

“Like the gradual accumulation of stress and fatigue, the benefits of rest and play will also accumulate gradually,” Mr. Martin cautions. So be patient and persistent with your new plan while the benefits accumulate. 

Resource

National Institute for Play
www.nifplay.org

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: Chris Martin, DMin, BCPC, Transformation Counseling, Charlottesville, Va.; Stuart Brown, MD, lecture at 2008 Art Center Design conference, Calif., www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html; Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play by Lenore Terr. Simon & Schuster, 2000; National Institute for Play, www.nifplay.org; Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown. Penguin Group, 2009

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