Okay, no promises on the rich part. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s an added benefit to some hard core play.
I often watch children play. Not in any kind of creepy way but I use play therapy with both children and adults so I count it as research. Really fun research.
But mostly I watch them play because I really appreciate how kids use their imaginations. They make up all kinds of wild stuff. And believe it so wholeheartedly. They think they’re the absolute greatest at whatever they thoroughly enjoy and believe they’re capable of anything. Not in any narcissistic kind of way but with a healthy confidence.
At least until some adult or enough adults knock them down to size. Then they turn into the miserable adult with broken confidence and muted dreams.
So moral of this story is keep on playing.
But what is play?
Play is any voluntary activity done simply for its own sake with the experience of the activity being more important than any outcome.
“But I have more important things to do. Bills to pay. My house is about to be foreclosed.” I can just hear the excuses.
Sure, it may seem frivolous to play when you have serious concerns but those serious concerns are exactly why you need to play. Here are 6 reasons why it is vital to play as an adult (even if you think you can’t afford to):
1. To connect.
Playing anything with others connects us to one another. Whether it’s a board game, a team sport, dancing, telling jokes, or cooking up some deliciousness in the kitchen, play develops social skills. We connect more easily with people we have things in common with and doing those things together increases that connection.
This is the premise of meetup.com. Join an activity you enjoy and you’ll make some friends. Not only that but it’s easier to engage with others when being playful because that’s often when we’re our most authentic.
Human connection is also vital to our well-being and increases our length of life. Not to mention having more connections means more resources to assist in figuring out how to address those serious concerns.
2. To be smarty pants.
Research shows that playing games and completing puzzles of any kind lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Play gets us thinking in different ways and using different parts of our brains. This stimulates brain development overall and who couldn’t use a little more smarts in work and life. Especially if you have serious concerns and don’t know what to do about them.
3. To boost creativity.
Play forces us to step outside of our comfort zones, often without realizing it. It gets us thinking outside the box.
We cease thinking creatively when we become fearful. Play removes fear because it creates a situation in which failing is no longer scary and instead is now a fun part of the learning process.
We don’t take things as seriously so all ideas are fair game (pun intended). Many major companies, particularly in the tech industry, use play as a part of their development process. Playing promotes innovation and problem solving in ways other methods can’t. This is super important when you’re feeling stuck.
4. To relax.
Play makes it easier to be mindful, in the zone, in the state of flow, or whatever you want to call being present in the moment. When we’re fully present we aren’t thinking about the past or pondering the future. There is no anxiety, sadness, or anger. There is only now and that is automatically relaxing.
And believe it or not it's often only when we relax that solutions to our problems present themselves. So would you rather worry about something for an hour or play for an hour to find the answers you’re searching for?
5. To stay fit.
I frequently hear people say, “I really want to exercise more but I hate it!” Believe it or not it’s actually possible to enjoy exercise. Shocking, right? The key is to look at it differently and figure out which ways of moving your body are fun and playful for you.
Exercise isn’t just going to the gym and lifting some weights and running on the treadmill. Personally I think it’s no wonder they need tvs in there but of course, if that’s play for you and you enjoy it than by all means keep on going. But if that’s not your cup of tea then go hiking or practice yoga or surf or dance or get on a pole or… I could go on and on. Just get your body moving in some fun way. It's really important to take care of yourself, especially when life is more on the challenging side.
6. To increase happiness.
The one thing almost every person says they want in life is “more happiness.” That certainly looks differently for everyone but overall play of any sort creates joy.
Play helps us to take things less seriously. We live in a culture obsessed with results and anything that doesn’t seem productive is taboo. Yet such intense focus on results often creates stress and unhappiness. It’s never the results that actually bring us the joy but rather the experience of the journey there and playing is always and only about the experience. You can't help but be happy when in the midst of playing your heart out.
So get out there and play like your life depends on it because really it does. And again you might get rich.