As I’ve studied various therapies over the last few years, something that pops up from time to time, is the importance of play. It’s not something I believe we give a lot of thought to as adults. Play is synonymous with children and childhood, but it remains an important part of our growth as adults.
When I was little I played outside constantly, always with a neighbors dog in tow or I’d pretend I was a dog myself on many occasions. There were creeks to splash in, trees to climb, playgrounds to clamber on, swings to swing on. In colder months, puzzles were often laid out on the table, stuffed animals and a box full of clothes and costumes for tea parties and pretend.
As we age these things begin to slip away. Where do they go? Many of us leave behind our imaginations and step into the world of logic and work work work, in a hurry to turn our backs on the stuff of children. When was the last time you had fun? When was the last time you played? When was the last time you had fun and played without alcohol or another substance involved?
For some of us, especially those who are more introverted or anyone uncomfortable in crowds, alcohol is an easy crutch to pick up to loosen our inhibitions. Why do we become so inhibited in the first place? What’s wrong with playing and having fun, letting our hair down, getting on the ground and playing with animals or kids or bugs? Dancing like crazy or throwing your hands in the air as you sail down a slide?
When is the last time you really had some good clean fun? Something that left you tired and exhilarated and happy? I have a riding lesson once a week, for me that’s extraordinarily enjoyable, even though I’ve been riding for years, learning new skills and flying down the arena on a good horse is fabulous fun; outside of that I really had to pause as I was writing and think about what I do for play and fun and it took me a bit to rule out any occasions with alcohol involved and come to something really joyful.
Play is a form of therapy that is really valuable, but even or especially, in every day life, play can increase your sense of community, your mental acuity, it offers opportunity for exercise and fresh air, release of endorphins and stimulation of creativity, just to name a few of the perks.
Some ideas to get you started on bringing play and fun back into your life: break out the play-dough or clay, find some crayons or colored pencils and draw or color, go to an amusement park and ride some rides, go for a hike, play frisbee with your dog or some friends, play a board game, make a fort, do a puzzle, try a new recipe, try anything new really, ride a horse, join a softball team, get out there and shake things up, kids!