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When We Play, We Find Our Way

For many of adults, play is like sex. It requires that you schedule it into your routine. Life can be so busy, with so much activity scheduled into an average day that playing (like sex) can get put on the back burner and never carried out.

I work with lots of clients who do not regularly participate in play. When I ask them what they do for fun, they frequently report that they enjoy dinner or going to a movie. That’s not play! Dinner is a needed respite, but it’s not play. Going to the movies is entertainment and is fun, but it clearly doesn’t substitute for good old-fashioned play.

Play is active. It produces adrenaline and endorphins. It typically involves creativity, motor coordination, and imagination. It can be done solo or with others. It creates a sense of enjoyment that leaves you feeling satisfied. After you play, you find yourself reminiscing on the “fun factor”. You make statements to yourself like, “That was really fun” or “I loved that” or “Let’s do that again.”

Before you dismiss today’s column as too simplistic, or possibly not pertinent enough to your own life, ask yourself:
• Do I regularly participate in having fun?
• Do I have a friend or group of friends that share my love of life?

I’m not talking the stock market. I’m talking Frisbee, golf, water-skiing, or floating on a raft on a lake. Play should never involve stress or serious competition. It is done to relieve stress, not create it. If you engage in an activity that requires massive amounts of contemplation or competition, you need to lighten up. Playing should never end with regret or a pledge that you will get a higher score or a faster lap. That negates the purpose of play, which is solely to have fun.
My single clients complain that they can’t find anyone. I immediately ask them what they do for fun. Their homework becomes experimenting with having fun trying a new adventure. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic like skydiving or mountain climbing—it means going to the newspaper and checking out events that meet the “fun factor”. Playing is a great way to meet the opposite sex.

If you are married, you have no excuse. You have a built-in playmate. If your partner is less adventuresome than you, it’s time to call some friends who would be willing to participate in the art of having fun. It might be having a slumber party with six of your “forty-something” girlfriends. Or, going to a park and shooting some hoops with the guys. Have you tried playing paddleball with those paddles that make sonic noise? How about throwing a ball with your four-year-old son and every time he catches it, you do a cartwheel or two just for the fun of it? Ever thought about going to Eagle Creek and paddleboating? Or taking a relative morel hunting? Ever tried your hand at karaoke or rollerblading?

If you are reading this column and shaking your head no, you need an attitude adjustment! Life is supposed to be fun. For many of us, we have to create those experiences. Sonic paddleballs don’t just show up on the front porch.

Seriously, there have been lots of events since September 11, 2001 that have taken a toll on us and play is a way to balance the fear and the drama. Don’t underestimate the benefits of play.

“When we play, we find our way.”

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