by Lisa Grant-Feeley, MS, LPC
As founder of the National Institute of Play, Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen. That’s a strong comparison considering that none of us have gone without breathing in even the last minute, but how many of us can remember the last time we really played? Not every minute, but daily or often.
Brown considers play to be a “state of being” and “purposeless fun and pleasurable.” It is a state of being because when we play, we engage our minds, bodies, and spirits. It is purposeless because there is no real goal or consequence. I’m fortunate to be able to remember playing outside as a child for hours on end; the excitement and anticipation of running out the door filled with a sense of freedom, anticipation and curiosity for whatever the next few hours would bring. I fully committed to whatever and wherever play brought me, whether it be creating a fantasy land for fairies, (whom I was sure existed), burying a box filled with treasures to be dug up when I was “all grown-up”, finding neighborhood kids to play hide and seek or kick ball, or just climbing trees and pretending I lived alone in the forest. The possibilities were as endless as my imagination.
Besides the sheer enjoyment of play, numerous additional benefits exist. Play gives us the chance to connect to others and increases our sense of social wellbeing. As Plato aptly said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” In addition, play that utilizes our brainpower helps to maintain cognitive function and increases creativity, productivity and cooperation at home and at work. Furthermore, adults who play and are playful demonstrate higher overall life satisfaction, as reported by numerous studies. Play adds to our social, mental and emotional wellbeing. Play is powerful!
Keep in mind that there are many ways to play, and getting in touch with your preference could enhance your life in a meaningful way. Try being light-hearted or silly or doing something out of character like tickling your spouse, whatever brings delight. It doesn’t matter how you play, but rather, that you do play.
As George Bernard Shaw wisely reminded us: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
Lisa Grant-Feeley, MS, LPC works with children, teens and families as well as individuals. She specializes in working with individuals with ADHD and related behaviors. She is dedicated to helping families work to create peace in their homes by working with all members of the family. To connect with Lisa, please call 267-625-2565 or visit her website lisagrantfeeleytherapy.com.