It was a hopeful Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago and I had no plans, no commitments, no obligations for the day. Since this rarely happens, I thought “hmmm…what do I want to do today?”
I decided to take a trip to the zoo. While I expected to walk around, see some cool elephants and monkeys, gain some stories and take some pictures, what I gained was much different. Very different. What I didn’t expect to gain was the lesson the animals were about to teach me around the importance of play.
As I wandered around the zoo, from one site to the next, I watched the animals interact with one another. At the gorilla exhibit, I watched as one gorilla was wrestling with another gorilla. As they were chasing after each other, running around in circles and then playfully grabbing at each other, the entire crowd burst out laughing. It was hilarious and loving to watch how they socialized. Then, I headed over to the lion exhibit, and I couldn’t believe it but the same thing was happening there! The lions were playing around with each other too! One lion was a total instigator. He would sneak up behind another lion and when that lion turned around, he would run away. They would eventually catch each other and start wrestling. It was hilarious.
That’s when I thought, what happens to us as adults? We start out playing with each other as kids, we live for our recesses, then what happens? Why do so many of us stop playing and goofing around?
We need to take a note from the animal kingdom.
More and more research suggests that healthy playtime leads to healthy adulthood. Scientists are finding that play is important to adults as a way of reducing stress and contributing to our overall well-being. Research has shown that we are all wired to play. In fact, we actually need it in our lives.
Play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep. When we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice. The lack of play shows up: we get cranky, rigid, complacent, stuck in a rut. We may even start to feel like victims of life.
We can turn this around by starting to bring play into our daily lives.
So, what exactly is play?
By definition, play is " a particular act or maneuver in a game." Like when a game is “in play.” It is further defined as "recreational activity; the spontaneous activity of children," as well as "the absence of serious or harmful intent" and "a move or series of moves calculated to arouse friendly feelings."
Play has been found to help us out at work. When we are working, playfulness speeds up learning, enhances productivity, and increases job satisfaction. Team building events, joking around with one another, even making a game of your mundane to do list by trying to see how quickly you can get it done. This all leads your brain to think healthier and happier which translates to higher productivity.
Good news, it helps us out at home too! When we are at home, playing together can enhance bonding and communication. From playing board games with one another to watching movies, being together in a playful state can ease tension and stress, enhancing longevity of our lives.
And of course, physical activities equal play to our brains. From joining a tennis club, kickball team, or dance class, any sort of group exercise can release dopamine and have long term healthy impacts.
From the boardroom to the board games, play helps us maintain our well-being.
Now I would love to hear from you! In the comments below, tell me…in what ways are you going to play today?