The Importance of Play

“Creative Play” might not be a term you are familiar with.

We know the words and what they mean, but we tend to associate “play” with children. As adults, we have lost sight of the importance of play, and the countless benefits of incorporating it into our lives.

Play reminds us to be imaginative. Imagination is something we associate with children—playing dress up,  presenting puppet shows, building great worlds with Lego® and MineCraft®.

As adults, imagination is often associated with daydreaming, not paying attention, not taking things seriously. People who study play are recognizing and promoting the fact that it’s super important for adults to do something just for fun on a regular basis, ideally daily.

In his book Play, psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play, Stuart Brown, defines play as “a state of being—purposeless, fun and pleasurable.” Specifically, his seven properties of play are:

Apparently Purposeless | An activity done for no reason or practical value, simply for its own sake.

Voluntary | Play is not obligatory, or required for the completion of any task or goal.

Inherent Attraction | Play is fun and makes us feel good.

Freedom from Time | When we are immersed in play, we lose sense of time. We are in the zone.

Diminished Consciousness of Self | At the peak of play, we are not concerned with looking silly or stupid, embarrassed or awkward.

Improvisational Potential | Play offers flexibility for the activity to change along the way, and allow new thoughts, ideas, and strategies to emerge.

Continuation Desire | We want to find ways to keep doing it—the pleasure drives the desire.

That all sounds fine and dandy, and like a recipe for a good time. So, what? Why is play so important? Well, there are undeniable physical, mental, and emotional benefits to adults who play. Here are just a few, observed by grown-ups everywhere:

  • Play relieves stress
  • Play boosts creativity, not only in artistic ways, but in our everyday thought processes
  • Play improves brain function and provides clarity
  • Play facilitates problem-solving and outside-the-box thinking
  • Play builds intimate relationships through vulnerability and the sharing of joyful experiences
  • Play reduces and/or prevents burnout

Whoa! Sounds ah-may-zing!

But wait! There’s more! When it feels like our days—and likely our moods—are being hijacked by seemingly never-ending To Do lists, interruptions, and obligations, a quick recess—or reset—for even 20-minutes of play can foster a deeper connection to self. Here’s how:

  • Play encourages you step away from a tedious or frustrating task to do something purely for joy
    (not to be mistaken for procrastination)
  • Play eases the return to tasks with a renewed focus and sense of direction (clears the mind)
  • Play helps break cycles of negative self-talk (pattern interrupt)
  • Play offers new perspectives on problems at hand (innovative thinking)
  • Play refreshes body + mind with feel-good hormone bursts (endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine + serotonin)

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking you’d like more play in your life, right?

I have good news for you! Play doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time, space, or energy. In fact, that’s the whole point—play ought to be easy. Start injecting a few minutes of play into your week, then each day. You will quickly see and feel the many benefits, and will be motivated to carve out time for play every day. You may even decide to share the joy of play with those around you.

So, what is Creative Play?
Come back for my next post where I answer that question and offer some fun ways to enjoy a little creative play every day.

In the meantime, share your thoughts on the importance of play in the comments below.

Are you seeking fun new ways to play with your creative energy? Come to CAMP, where you can enjoy online art classes, live events + community. Think of it as your online happy place for Creative Awakenings, Mindfulness + Play!

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