Adult Play

Imagine walking down the street and hearing laughter and hollering coming from around the corner.  You assume it is a group of kids playing.  When you turn the corner you see adults, some of whom are blindfolded and being led around by other adults.  Balls are flying through the air as the blindfolded people are trying to tag other blindfolded people.  In the midst of it all you see that these people are clearly having fun.

For years parents have been told about the importance of play for their children, but what about the importance of play for grown-ups? The National Institute for Play believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate.

Perhaps you have heard the saying, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’  There is probably more truth to the saying than most realize.  Research indicates that without play it is hard to give your best at work or at home.

What do you do on a regular basis for fun?  When was the last time you went down a slide, played hide and go seek or a good game of waffle ball?  Many adults have the mindset that they are too old to play.  There is actually strong evidence that this could not be further from the truth.  Play may be the very thing that keeps you young and healthier. In fact, studies show that a life lived without play is at increased risk for stress related diseases, mental health issues, addiction and interpersonal violence.

According to the National Institute, play is the gateway to vitality.  By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these play by-products are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.

Play also enhances relationships.  The National Institute for Play cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.  Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humor, the enjoyment of novelty, the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies, the enjoyment of mutual storytelling, and the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies.

Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy.  Who wouldn’t want this in a relationship?

Believe it or not, the adults who were seen playing blindfolded were actually working.  This playfulness was part of a work activity.  When finished, almost without exception, each person commented on how good it felt to play and how energized they felt.  When they sat down to actually work on a project, many commented that they could feel the high level of energy in the room.

Just as children need play to help them de-stress, adults need play to help them be at their best when it comes to career, parenting, and marriage.  Instead of looking at play as a waste of precious time, consider it a great investment in your wellbeing.

Article originally posted at: http://firstthings.org/the-importance-of-play-for-adults