It’s Time to Play

I regret having been away so long, but I have been with one of my best friend a lot lately. She weighs about 17 pounds, has four little legs and is covered in white hair. My dog, Coconut may be turning 10 years old in a month, but she is still learning new tricks and sharing them with me. One of the most important things I have learned from Coconut is the importance of play. I do not care how old you are or how old you feel. You will never be too old to play.

Coconut and her Duck
Coconut’s version of play tends to include taking all of the stuffing out of a stuffed animal and then asking me kindly to throw the pelt across the room so she can get it. I don’t quite understand, but if it makes her happy, it’s worth it.

The best definition for “play” as related to my point is as follows: “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” That is the exact right kind of play. Playing doesn’t need to have the structure of a sport of the silliness of playing tag; it just needs to make you happy. Like I told you, Coconut has spent a decade on this earth, and she still loves to play. I don’t necessarily share her pastimes, but I do know that when she plays, she looks like she is having the time of her life.

Playing as a child is expected, but playing as an adult has unfortunately grown to seem out of place. Society wants young adults to grow up and become adults who only ever have work on their minds. This single track is not enough to make life feel fulfilling. In fact, it is rather unhealthy. Children learn, grow and develop through play, and there is no reason adults cannot do the same thing.

According to an article titled “The Benefits of Play for Adults,” play provides people with a host of benefits including but not limited to learning, creating, feeling challenged, losing ourselves in a pleasurable activity, calming and focusing ourselves, competing, cooperating and just having fun. All those things we had to learn as a child don’t go away as adults. And come on, who doesn’t need a refresher course in fun sometimes?

Play relieves stress, improves interpersonal relationships and stimulates the mind and thought processes. All of these things can make a person more productive in the workplace they are taking a break from when they play. It can help us to feel better physically and mentally. In short, science agrees that play is hugely important for people to have regularly.

I guess she wore herself out
And when you are done playing, take a nap. Naps are still a good thing, too.

This is the part where some people start to think, “well, I’m not exactly about to get up and start playing tag with my co-workers.” This is good. You probably shouldn’t run up and slam your hands into somebody’s back and shout, “You’re it.” But that isn’t the only way to play. A PsychCentral article on play says one of the most important things we need to do is change the way we think about play. Play isn’t just playing a sport or a game. Play can be taking your dog for a walk, telling jokes, singing in the car or anything else that leaves you smiling to yourself or laughing out loud. One of my personal favorite games is Snap Catch, and in case you don’t know how to play, watch my video here. And if you still need more proof, check out the National Institute for Play’s website.

George Bernard Shaw said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” He is all too right. Play is beyond important to staying healthy, staying happy and staying sane. If you find that you aren’t playing right now, stop and take the time to do it. Whether it’s by yourself, with a pet, with a friend or with a group of people, play. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a game you like to play? Be sure to share it in the comments section below.

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