Get out and Play – by Deborah Berryman

Ah, the Summertime! I remember this time of year growing up, when we broke from school and spent hours playing outside with our friends….when the warm days felt like they lasted forever.

So often for many of us, this ‘playful spirit’ somehow got lost along the way. Around the season of turning 25, life starts to be a little more demanding and things seem to get really serious.  We start to measure our worthiness on the level of productivity, achievement and success, and so making time to have fun can often fall by the wayside, becoming less and less as each year creeps by.

So does it matter? Aren’t we all a little old for this? Well, accordingly to recent research, play is essential to our health and functioning.  Research from Dr Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and author or a wonderful book titled Play: How it Shapes the Brain suggests that “The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression.” Maybe he’s got a point.

So often when we’re busy and overwhelmed, the idea of doing something that is ‘purposeless – playing for the sake of play; because it’s fun’, is an anxiety attack waiting to happen. Our tapes of “there’s so much to do, and so little time…..” get triggered, and so spending time doing anything unrelated to the To-Do list actually creates stress. We convince ourselves that playing is a waste of precious time, but it’s perhaps worth rethinking this.

There’s a ton of evidence out there which repeatedly demonstrates play is a brilliant and natural stress-buster. It improves focus, reduces stress and improves sleep – and the results are the same for both adults and kids.

Playing helps our brain to stay young. The experience affects the connections between neurons in the brain’s prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls thought analysis and decision-making), helping develop executive functions like the ability to regulate emotions and solve problems.

And just as important, are the social and physical aspect of play which have both been shown to stabilise mood and decrease anxiety. Basically, all the science is demanding that we go out and play right now.

Here’s 5 top tips on how to create more play in your life

  1. Set the Goal of Playing More, intention is everything.
  2. Decide What Fun Means For You; music, games, creating, exploring
  3. Gift yourself time to do what you enjoy
  4. Combine Play With Other Activities like singing when you’re washing up and dance when you’re cleaning the car
  5. Make work enjoyable – plan healthy, challenging and memorable team activities guaranteed to make you smile!

As grownups, we have every right to enjoy ourselves and it’s an essential part of our nature.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

So today you have full permission to take something off that To-Do list and replace it with something fun. Your mind and soul will thank you for it, I promise! I hope to meet you out there on the swings of life. Deborah

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