It’s never too late to have fun in life. It was recess and the game was Capture the Flag. My big brother was in the sixth grade, and I was a few years behind in second grade. Usually, only the older kids played, but this time my big brother invited me to join his team. It was an extra special honor to be a part of their secret operation. This was serious business. We were all determined and full of adrenaline. Nothing else in the world mattered, but outsmarting, outrunning, and outdoing the other team.
As we dispersed, my job was to pretend that I wasn’t playing. I was to watch for a secret signal from my brother and then do a sneak attack to free team members from “jail”. I faked not playing for a while, but don’t be fooled, even while pretending not to play, I was deeply immersed in the game of being the best secret agent I could be. When several of our key team members were in “jail” (which was really just a big oak tree), I casually walked onto enemy territory, determined to free my team members from captivity. I was shaking. I was sure the other team could tell what I was up to, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. I walked for what felt like miles, but was probably only 30 yards. When I finally reached the tree, I high-fived all four captive team members, granting them freedom. Victory!
I don’t remember who won the game that day. It didn’t really matter. I had the time of my life, playing, imagining, joining together, being fully immersed – body, mind, spirit – on a mission that was solely intended for the sake of fun.
Thinking back to that playful day makes me smile.
When did we trade being playful for being busy?
“Until it’s missing, we don’t notice it,” says Dr. Stuart Brown, Founder of the National Institute for Play. He also asserts that “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.”
Many of us have lost ourselves in this go-go-go, busy-busy-busy, work-work-work world. Our worth and identities are wrapped up in our productivity. We believe that we are valued for what we accomplish. Being busy is status symbol that many of us wear proudly. And yet, so many of us are unhappy, grinding through jobs we don’t like, pushing through our days like work-horses, feeling uninspired and unappreciative of our lives.
We’ve forgotten how to engage in play. We’ve replaced playing and having fun with everything we think we are supposed to be doing and then wonder why we feel unhappy and unfulfilled.
When we take time to play, we can …
-solve problems with more ease
-improve our relationships
-be healthier, happier humans
For children, play cultivates creativity, enhances problem solving abilities, boosts intelligence, and opens the doors to discovery, joy and wonder as well as fostering human connection. Play has the same positive impact on adults.
Play for both kids and adults is more than just fun and games. It’s a way of being that is natural to our humanness while also offering a multitude of benefits for our brains, our moods, and our bodies.
Remember what it feels like to play.
Imagine yourself as an 8-year old kid outside on a warm summer day playing with your friends. Whether it’s the swing set, a game of tag, climbing on the monkey bars, or your own game of capture the flag, infuse the memory into your cells — mind, body, and all your senses — as if you’re there now. As you let that memory sink in. Capture the joy and freedom you felt when you were 8, and think about what it would feel like to experience joy and freedom through play as an adult.
We can integrate play into our busy lives, and live with a sense of joy and wonder through our commitment to play. A little bit of play goes a long way and you don’t have to rearrange your life to get started.
Play your way
Commit to a play date once a week. Create your own adventure, or use of these suggestions.
- Host a scavenger hunt. Get creative, make your lists, call your friends, or drop invites in their inbox to meet in a secret location. Or hire someone to create a scavenger hunt for you. My friend, Samantha, is the founder of The Everyday Adventure and she organized an amazing scavenger hunt for a group of us in Chicago and it was a blast! See above for the picture of our Human Pyramid that got clinched my team the win! You can also read more about our “Amazing Race” here.
- Practice juggling in between calls at work. Use limes or small oranges.
- Do cartwheels on the beach or in the grass at the park.
- Organize a quick game of hide and seek or freeze tag before your Monday morning meeting. Remind your co-workers to dress appropriately.
- Trade walking for skipping.
- Announce recess for your employees. Only rules … leave your digital devices behind and get outside.
- Search meetup.com for a playful group and jump in.
- Buy kinetic sand (it never dries out!), put it in a pretty box, and create.
- Go to a local park and swing, slide, seesaw and climb
- Sing the next time you jump rope, exercise or wash dishes. Yes, out loud.
When’s the last time you really played, with a single-minded focus, and the simple goal of having fun? Isn’t it about time?
Play is so simple and yet it’s so much fun. Play is a vital part of our humanness. Play makes life that much more worth living.
See ya on the playground…
P.S. Add to your fun options by taking the free 10-question MindBody IQ Quiz.
P.P.S. Fun is happening in the private, free Facebook group: the MindBodyWise Living Room. You’re invited…I hope you’ll join us.