The Art of Play

As children we all were innocent, so spontaneous and free.
But we all learned how to grow up, and forget the child’s key.

– Robert Lawrence Friedman

One of the keys to success in adulthood is often overlooked by most adults, the value of self-care, and, as part of self-care, the ability to cultivate the art of play.

Most of us work hard, pay our bills, take care of our families, but can use support for taking better care of ourselves, particularly in the area of play.

When the word “play” is uttered, it often brings to mind days of youth.  In fact, many of us have a work ethic mentality that only allows for play when we are sharing a playful activity with our children.   Play will certainly never be scheduled during a normal working day, yet this may be the most healthful thing you can do or yourself.

Many individuals in the health care field do a fantastic job of taking care of other’s needs, yet need to relearn how to take better care of themselves.

There are three basic self-care needs, getting a good night’s rest, eating healthfully and regular exercise.  Yet, there are other needs that are not as basic.  One of those needs is giving yourself an opportunity to play.

The type of play I am advocating is without liquor, and allowing yourself to play, without the accompaniment of your children.  It is play for the sake of play.  It is remembering and rechoosing experiences that bring back your sense of aliveness, vitality, excitement and vigor.   For this writer, the three play choices are simple:  table tennis, drumming and Scrabble, not necessarily in that order.

The next task is taking the time to make your needs important.  Finding a way to schedule in “me-time.”

Many of us have challenges with stress and feeling overworked, sometimes burning out as we help others.  Yet, one of the antidotes to burnout and stress is often overlooked.  When we play, we boost our body’s endorphins, we increase our immune system response, we lower our cortisol and stress hormones.  Emotionally, we will often increase our joy and sense of hopefulness.

How do you begin this task.  It begins with your asking yourself a question:  “What do I love to do?  When I was a growing up, what did I do to have fun?  See if you can find the equivalent now or experiment with new ways to have fun.  You will often find that by incorporating a schedule of play into your routines, your stress is lowered, your positive emotions are increased and your life becomes a bit richer.

When we begin to focus on our needs, and bring ourselves into the equation of life, we are beginning the process of creating a more balanced and fulfilled life.