Time to PlayJun 22, 2023
Summer is here, and while I hope you’re already enjoying some of the pleasures of the season, this episode will allow you to enjoy it even more. We’re talking about how to have more fun in your life and make time for play.
Your brain doesn’t want to have fun. It just wants you to survive. But life is long, so we might as well enjoy it! And play isn’t just about fun. It also supports our mental and emotional health. Let’s pursue play and have more fun in our lives…on purpose.
The Difference Between Play and Fun
Play and fun might happen at the same time, but they are really two different ideas.
Play is the action - the activities you do. It’s usually something that’s different from your regular life. We take a break from daily activities to play.
I like to think of play as an activity we do that is purposeless. The only purpose is the play itself, for the sake of enjoyment. There’s no other end goal.
Fun is the feeling - the experience. Of course, we can have fun through play, but we can also have fun while we’re working or doing our everyday activities. Fun is about the attitude and feelings we have when we’re participating in an activity.
In today’s episode, we’re focusing on play, but be sure to listen next week for more discussion about fun.
Benefits of Play
You’re probably well aware of how important play is for children and their brain development. But did you know play is also important for adult brain health and overall wellbeing?
When we play, we get a release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins that help us connect and relax. And our stress hormones decrease.
Studies have shown that play makes us more resilient so we can recover from stressful situations faster.
It increases your connection with other human beings and fosters creativity and innovation. Many companies are even incorporating play into their company culture to promote creative problem solving.
And you might not be surprised to hear that play improves overall mental health, facilitates happiness and helps ward off depression. It can even reduce your risk of developing age-related diseases, like dementia.
Why We Don't Make Time for Play
So, if we know that play is good for us (and it’s fun!), why aren’t we doing more of it? There are several common reasons or thoughts that seem to get in the way, but there are also ways to move past them.
Your brain is simply not concerned with play. It is only concerned with keeping you alive, and play can feel like a poor use of our time and energy. Your brain feels suspicious of play and tells you that there are a lot more important things you need to worry about.
We live in a world of so much abundance, and we are privileged to live in a time and place where we don’t have to think about our survival every minute of every day.
This means that there is time for both survival and play in your life. I challenge you to reclaim some of the time you spend thinking or worrying about work or trying to escape and give that time to play.
Because play actually adds energy to our lives. It’s a little like exercise in this way. Our brain tells us we’re too tired, but we end up feeling more energized after a workout.
The need to prove your worth
Many of us are trying to use the things we accomplish every day to give us feelings of value and worth. So when our sense of self or goodness is tied to how much we get done in a day, it’s hard to take a break to do something purposeless and play.
The thought of “I have to prove that I’m good” is really getting in the way of play.
You are not valuable because of the things you do. You’re just 100% valuable all the time.
Feeling insensitive or naïve
We live in a world where there is suffering, and sometimes we feel bad for enjoying our lives.
I want you to understand that there isn’t a limited amount of play or fun in the world. You are not taking play away from anyone else.
Just like your suffering doesn’t change anybody else’s suffering, your enjoyment doesn’t change anybody else’s suffering, either.
You get to take charge of your own play. You don’t have to wait your turn or wait for permission.
And even if you are going through a hard time now, taking a break from your grief or suffering to play can support your mental wellbeing.
We, especially women, have a lot of fear about what other people think of us. We worry about what we look like and how others perceive us when we’re playing.
And these fears prevent us from playing, enjoying ourselves and having fun.
It might take a little time, and you might feel really awkward at first, but the key is to decide that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It doesn’t matter if you look stupid. What matters is that you’re playing and doing what you want.
Our society makes it seem like productivity is the end all be all and the most important thing. There’s almost a sense of national morality around productivity being better than play. And we just assume it’s true.
But what if it’s not? What if play actually makes you more productive?
I encourage you to schedule times to play and to follow through, not just with your body, but with your mind. No thinking about work or figuring out problems during playtime. It can be simple and small, but you have to plan for it.
I also want you to challenge some of your thoughts about work and play and the value of it. What have you been taught about work and the importance of work? What have you been taught about fun? What do you believe about yourself when you accomplish something or when you don't?
Then decide what you want to believe about work and play and how you are going to prioritize them in your own life.
The invisible mental load
This is another one that weighs especially heavily on women. We’re carrying so many details, people, activities and schedules in our minds. This mental load can prevent us from really relaxing.
Sometimes we assume we’re in charge of things that we could delegate to someone else.
You also might find yourself thinking that you are in charge of managing everybody else's emotional experience. It's not your job to make sure that everybody has fun and gets along. Everybody gets to choose for themselves.
You don’t know how to play
This is just a story your brain tells you. We were all born knowing how to play. You just have to let yourself return to that.
Remember the things that you enjoy (without judgment), and decide that however you like to play and whatever you like to spend your time doing is worthy and a good way to play.
Play doesn’t need to produce anything or become anything. You get to play and lose yourself in something just for the joy of it.
I hope this episode helps you enjoy your summer and have more play in your life.
When you find yourself holding back and not letting yourself play, question your thoughts and change them. Decide that play is an important part of your life. It is one of the best things that you can do for your mental and emotional health.
Be sure to listen next week as we continue talking about FUN.
- Why you should make time to play
- When play turns into work
- How to shift your thoughts around play and make it a part of your life
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