Do you make time for fun (play, laughter, whimsy) in your life?
As adults, we tend to think of ‘having fun’ being mainly for children. And in one sense that’s right! However, studies have demonstrated, where playfulness is included regularly or spontaneously, a persons’ overall physical and mental health outcomes are improved.
When we are between adolescence and adulthood, we start believing that play is inconsequential and unrewarding. Society assumes that as we take on more responsibilities in our personal, family and professional lives, and as we grow in maturity, that we should minimise 'time wasting'. We are often rewarded for 'taking things seriously'. But is this really beneficial for us?
Early adulthood can be confronting, challenging and annoying. Resistance comes in many forms and can manifest in behaviours connected to distraction from the real world, such as social media (beyond inclusion), online gambling, gaming and binge activities.
For young and mature adults, the intent of distraction is to remove themselves from real life demands. This distraction is often accomplished by choosing ‘time wasting’ activities. There is more to this than simple distraction (for more info on the health implications of distraction, read the blog article Attention to Distraction). I believe that this desire for distraction can, in some cases, be a yearning to return to the simpler times of childhood. Becoming so engrossed in play as a child was often such a rewarding experience, and one that we can still benefit from today.
Instead of searching for distraction, what we are really looking for is presence. When we are in the moment, actual distraction is very limited. All senses are engaged in what you're actually doing, and not in what's happening around you, or in your mind.
Even 'mature' adults wish the world would just slow down enough to catch our breath. However, this is the illusion. For it’s in the slowing down that we introduce quietness and mental harmony, and we can realise that we had it within us all along. Recapturing our childhood joys can sometimes be as simple as a ‘state of mind’.
Now that we have the ‘why’ and ‘what it is’, let’s move on to ‘how to’ change the paradigm towards self-fulfilment and building habits.
Let's start with the definition of ‘play’: To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Participating in group activities (sports, social clubs, etc) or volunteering are valid 'distractions' from the day-to-day. However, the key words I wish to focus on from the above definition of play is ‘rather than a serious or practical purpose’. Being individually playful and not entertained by others can be confronting, even scary. Because as adults we can feel that expressing inner joy through spontaneous actions is risky to ourselves. The urge is to hold it inside whilst publicly showing we’re composed and normal. How much individual joy is actually missed through NOT expressing that joy?
I find joy all around me, in nature, in the antics of children, and in observing society non judgementally, allowing each circumstance to reveal its inner humour. When I’m struck by irony I laugh out loud and applaud. For in that moment I’m engaged in the interaction, the world around me becomes less import but not ignored. And physical play, like skipping flat stones across still water or sitting, tossing rolled up paper into a basket. These are all ‘just for the fun of it’ things that I like to include in my life as play. What do your moments of whimsy look like?
Reclaiming youth through play is not the goal here. It’s more about understanding that play is a healthy activity, supported by scientific social research studies and articles (which you can seek out online). My main aim is to suggest opening yourself up to the possibilities play can offer, and perhaps allow play to de-stress you and the world you encounter.
In a way, play gives you permission to reconnect with your inner child. Your inner child is still there, they haven't gone away or abandoned you. You just need to tap into the whimsical world of play and fun! Remember to acknowledge that there is a part of you that wants to express itself. Be a paradigm changer for yourself and enjoy the FUN (and health benefits) in play!