Everyone knows that children and playtime go hand in hand. Recent studies have shown that play is an essential part of children’s mental development. Through free play, kids develop their language, vocabulary, social-cognitive, collaboration, generosity, and emotional intelligence skills. But it’s easy to forget that adults benefit greatly from play as well. If you can’t remember the last time you played just for fun, it might be time to put down that to-do list and head out for recess.
What is “Play” for Adults?
When we think about “playing,” adults often think of playgrounds or toys, but play for adults can mean many things: novelty, pleasure, exhilaration, mindfulness, laughter, or creativity.
Play is hugely beneficial for adults for so many reasons:
- Physical play increases cardiovascular function, reduces stress hormones, and triggers the release of endorphins.
- Laughter also releases endorphins and strengthens inter-personal relationships.
- Playing at work increases productivity levels and fosters creative problem solving.
- Social and group play wards off depression, improves brain health, and lowers your risk of developing age-related diseases like dementia.
Being a playful adult even makes you more attractive. How many people say “sense of humour” when asked what they look for in a mate? Nearly everyone.
Doing What You Love Will Feel Like Play
For adults, it’s not necessarily specific activities that count as play; it’s more about the way activities make you feel. If you love to do something and it makes you feel happy, exhilarated, or relaxed, it could be considered play.
If there’s a fun task at work that you can’t wait to get to every morning, that counts. If you love folding T-shirts and organizing them by colour KonMari style, you’re playing, my friend.
If you’re stuck for ideas, think about what your favourite things were as a kid.
- Loved comics? Ask a librarian about the hottest new graphic novel series.
- Miss your dance recitals? Take an adult beginner tap dance class.
- Former dungeon master? We guarantee there is a great Dungeons and Dragons game happening at your neighbourhood gaming shop.
- Miss hitting those home runs? Find a kickball league or coach a kids’ sports team.
As adults, we’re expected to be serious and responsible, but there’s no reason we have to be that way all the time. Don’t be ashamed to indulge in the adult version of something that used to bring you joy.
How to Add More Play to Your Life
Play doesn’t have to be a big commitment, either. There are countless ways to fit a little more play into your day that don’t take much time or money. For example:
- Don’t eat lunch at your desk! Instead, grab a work friend and play cards or go for a walk around the block on your break.
- Play with kids: get one to teach you how to play their favourite video game, or grab a handful of their Legos. (You remember Lego, right?)
- Get a waterproof Bluetooth speaker and dance in the shower.
- Do a crossword puzzle with your morning coffee instead of looking at your phone.
- Show off some of your old Star Wars figurine collection on your desk at work.
- Have breakfast for dinner.
- Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while and relive a funny story. (No, texting doesn’t count.)
- Learn how to tell a joke really well.
- Doodle a colourful creation if you’re in a boring meeting or phone call.
- Pledge to have a snowball fight with your family every time it snows.
- Write a funny poem in a greeting card instead of just “Happy Birthday.”
- Talk to strangers.
- Enact a pro-high fives policy at your office.
- Pet dogs. All the dogs.
How Much PlayDo You Need?
As adults, how much should we play? Experts say every day! It can be either a big life change, or a 5-minute recess, but whatever it is, it will be worth it for your health and happiness. And you remember what happened to Jack, right?