When we’re kids, we spend most of our time playing. As we get older, our homework load increases, and we start spending more time taking care of daily tasks. This causes that playtime to shorten.
Fast forward another few years, and we’re busy working during the week, caring for our families and trying to recover when we get home, and trying to fit all of our socialization and the rest of our recovery time into a two-day weekend so we can start all over again come Monday. Now what’s happened to that time for play in our schedules? Chances are, if you’re like most of us in the adult world, you’ve put the whole idea of carving out time to play on the back burner. You may even have categorized it into one of those activities that we’re supposed to “grow out of” as we get older.
But the unfortunate truth is that carving out that time to play in our adult lives may be more critical than many of us think.
Today we’ll explore some of the many reasons why play is essential for adults and how you can work to be more playful in your daily life.
The Many Types of Play
Before diving directly into the benefits of play in your life as an adult, you may be wondering what exactly counts as “play.” After all, while you may have enjoyed playing dress-up or creating intricate townscapes with your action figures as a kid, those things may not be quite as appealing to you today.
Luckily, there is much more to playing than recreating what you used to love as a kid. Playing doesn’t have to be just one thing. It can be whatever brings you joy. If you don’t know where to start, you may find discovering your particular “play personality” (or “play personalities”) to be a great first step.
According to the National Institute for Play, there are eight of these play personalities. Finding out which one(s) suits your interests can help you decide what types of play will be the most rewarding for you. The eight personalities are:
- Collector — joy from making and expanding collections
- Competitor — joy from playing (and winning) games with definitive rules
- Creator (or artist) — joy from building, fixing, or otherwise creating things
- Director — joy from planning and directing
- Explorer — joy from learning about or discovering new things
- Joker — joy from being silly or humorous
- Kinethete — joy from moving your body
- Storyteller — joy from creating or listening to stories
Why Is Playing Beneficial for Adults?
When we are young, playtime is essential for helping us develop socially, mentally, and creatively. And, as it turns out, playing as an adult can help to continually develop who we are as people while also aiding in stress reduction and improving our overall satisfaction with life.
In other words, there is no need to “grow out of” playing. Realistically, we should focus more on learning ways to keep that playfulness with us as we grow and how to look for new opportunities to play as our lives change over time.
So, without further ado, let’s explore some of the benefits of incorporating play into your life as an adult. Playing as an adult helps you…
- Stay physically healthy.
- Relieve and manage stress.
- Feel more fulfilled in your daily life.
- Stimulate your mind and cultivate creativity.
- Keep yourself feeling young and full of energy.
- Improve your relationships and strengthen your connections with others.
- Heal from emotional wounds or traumas.
- Boost productivity and enhance cooperation skills.
How to Incorporate More Play into Your Day
Now, you may be wondering how you can begin incorporating more play into your daily life — especially if you’ve gotten out of the habit and are working with a rather busy schedule. While there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer to this question, the one unifying factor each of the tips we have listed below has in common is that you need to be intentional about reintroducing play into your life.
When you actively make an effort to find the time to incorporate play into your schedule, you are signifying to yourself that it is an important part of your life. In other words, make play a priority in your life, and you’ll be reaping those benefits in no time!
Some of the most impactful ways to reincorporate some valuable playtime into your adult life include the following.
Discover Your Play Personality
We touched on the play personalities earlier, but if you are struggling to add more play time into your life, we strongly recommend taking some time to truly think about your play personality. You may find that you get tremendous value from some types of play while others don’t really do it for you.
If you aren’t sure automatically what your most valued types of play are from just looking at the list of play personalities, try ranking each personality on a scale of 1-8, where 1 is the most fulfilling to you, and 8 is the least enjoyable. For most people, the top 3-4 play styles will be the ones that you’ll want to pay the most attention to when it comes to finding out what to make time for.
Adopt a Playful Mindset
You could be throwing a frisbee or ball for your dog or jumping on a trampoline with your kids, but if you’re not doing the activity with a playful mindset, it’s not going to register in your brain as “play.” On the flip side, if you go into a task or activity with the thought and intention of simply doing it to enjoy, relax, and have a good time, even the most mundane grocery run can be play.
In other words, what counts as play is determined as much by your mindset as it is the activity you are doing.
Involve Your Loved Ones (Especially Kids)
If you have kids, you’ll have loads of opportunities to involve others in your newly scheduled time for play. But don’t worry, if you don’t have kids, there are still plenty of ways to share this time.
Whether you go out for drinks, host a board game night, or go out for a hike in a nearby park, finding ways to include friends and loved ones can be a great way to not only get more enjoyment out of an already fun activity but also strengthen your connections with those around you and help them to get some more enjoyment in their day as well. So really, involving loved ones in your play is a win for everyone!
For more help reviving your playful side and learning how to feel fulfilled in your life, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow.
At Love Heal Grow, we are passionate about helping individuals from all backgrounds and life experiences learn how to get the most from their lives, and relearning how to play as an adult is one of many techniques that can help with this. So, if you are looking for additional guidance on how to cultivate your own playfulness or extra techniques for coping with life changes as you age, schedule an appointment with one of our therapists.