Surprise, life is more fun and enjoyable when you play with it! I need refreshers on this lesson often and have made it a point to sprinkle my life with reminders so as not to take things too seriously. My dogo is great for this, as well as many playful people I love, and gotta give it up for random strangers out there having a ball (thanks for doing you, please never stop). Kids are also masters at moving through life playfully, and it’s easy to see how this allows them easier access to joy and imaginative thinking than most adults. As our lives take on more complexity and structure, social conditioning tends to push us to conduct ourselves with more seriousness. After all, the world might not operate as smoothly if we all ran around like giggle-drunk five year olds and refused to wear pants. But then again, some things actually become more achievable and move more smoothly when they’re treated playfully.
“Nature does not hurry, and yet everything is accomplished.”Loa Tzu
I am grateful to nature for teaching me the value of embracing more spontaneous childlike wonder. As a recovering perfectionist, I used to make plans, attempt to execute everything to a T, and would often end up stressing myself out over details so much so that I’d get stuck on perceived imperfections and miss out on the beauty of the whole and all the parts that were awesome. Realizing I do not enjoy that stressful cycle, I have made it a practice to head out into the world with rougher plans and looser expectations, allowing things to fall into place as they will and staying open to the unexpected. More often than not with this approach, things come together without a hitch; it’s like moving with the current instead of trying to swim against it. In the wise words of Lao Tzu, “Nature does not hurry, and yet everything is accomplished.”
If you need justification for adding more play to your life, know that it comes with a plethora of benefits!
If you’ve trained yourself to be a generally serious, responsible adult, learning to introduce a healthy sense of play might feel simultaneously strange (like stopping yourself from cleaning up a mess) and freeing (like learning how to swim). It’s to be expected that changing a habit that’s been around for many years will feel odd at first as new fun-centered neural pathways are developed. And as with all lifestyle shifts, play is an ongoing practice! If you need justification for adding more play to your life, know that it comes with a plethora of benefits! Not only will it help decrease stress, creative gridlock, and boredom, healthy play for adults has also been shown to improve brain function, stimulate the mind and boost creativity, improve relationships and connection to others, and will help keep you feeling young and energetic (article on helpguide.org here). In the name of spontaneous fun for a good cause, I hope we’ll all get on board.