This statement has been around forever, but made popular by way of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining. In this classic horror story our main character Jack, an aspiring writer looses his mind while house sitting an off season hotel deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Alone with his young wife and son, Jack slowly looses all track of reality and goes literally insane. Long story short, isolation, and long hours of tireless work drives our protagonist mad.
What does that have to do with play you might ask. Well if Jack took a moment each day to play things would have turned out much different. Play, most often thought of as for children is equally important for adults. Here are my top eight benefits of play:
- Continued behavioral socialization. Playing at all ages can be a way of continued behavioral development. Social skills are learned in the give and take of play. As adults you continue to refine these skills through play and playful communication.
- Team player. Playing within groups is another amazingly powerful way to solidify the skills needed to work together with others. Playing with others allows you to break down barriers and improve your relationships.
- Play for fitness. Cross fit, group workouts, early morning boot camps are all examples of play fitness. It's the interaction, indeed the fun with others ad the support they provide that are at the center of group exercise programs.
- Practical play. Actually there's nothing practical about it. This aspect of play provides the safest possible environment for discovery. Without the consequence of judgement or failure one can experiment with different, unpracticed ideas and techniques without the stifling element of insecurity. Animals in the wild use play to develop and hone skills that they will use for survival. We're actually no different.
- Creative Play. As mentioned in point 4, learning happens best when playing. That principle applies especially to adults. You'll learn a new task better when it's fun. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve. Creative play space is free of the constraints that would otherwise stifle creativity. Be whatever you can imagine. There is no limit to what you can conjure under the guise of play. Your brain is like a muscle. The more you use it the more powerful it becomes.
- Play to relieve stress. Studies have shown that play can trigger the release of endorphins, your natural feel good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well being and can even temporarily relieve pain. It's hard to worry when you're playing. A clear mind is also better at addressing whatever is causing you stress in the first place.
- Problem solving. So bear with me on this one. I'm a gamer, yes I play video games… first person shooters to be exact. I've spent countless hours trying, on the hardest difficulty, to defeat whatever bad guy is threatening my virtual game reality. In all honesty, probably 90% of my gaming time has been spent trying to figure out how to get from one place to another amidst the relentless hordes of bad guys. Kudos to the game designers for making such an otherwise frustrating experience fun! I can say with absolute certainty that my ability to problem solve has been brilliantly cultivated playing Halo!
- Natural state. “You aren't your work, your accomplishments, your possessions, your home, your family… your anything. You're a creation of your source, dressed in a physical human body intended to experience and enjoy life on earth.” -Wayne Dyer. I will emphasize “enjoy life on earth”
I'll close with another quote. This one from George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright. “ We don't stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.”
Ron & the VWS Team