At some point in our lives we have forgot how to play. I was recently at the pool with my son and I watched the moms sitting dutifully on the edge watching their young happily play, but never getting in themselves. Do we really want to forgo an experience only to ensure the integrity of our hair and make-up? We seem to value appearance and/or outcomes over the experience in many ways. Can we ever master the art of living from the pool’s edge or does it require us to dive in and risk the chance of getting wet?
Play is a lifelong necessity with so many benefits that it can’t be overlooked. If you are not convinced, here are 4 great reasons to remain playful at every age.
1. Play is a biological imperative
If you have ever watched a kitten for any amount of time, you would see them play. All animals seem to do it naturally without instruction or any prompting. Play is something that is part of us and is only socialized out of us as we age. The play centers are found in the most primitive areas in the brain. That tells us that play has been a biological necessity since the very beginning of human development and has continued to be important as the brain has evolved. It is not a seeming luxury, but a biological imperative for all humans. We know that play is necessary for child development, but it also has some very real benefits for adults too.
2. Play is important part of health and healing
As we age, adults are at risk for mental decline. Many adults stop challenging their minds in novel ways. Play is constantly novel because there is no structure, no rules to follow and it is really about going with the flow. Play asks us to be able to think creatively on our feet, and use our imaginations. This present moment experience is great for stress relief and also helps to shift our perception of the world. The way we perceive the world has a profound impact on our ability to heal physiological and emotionally. Play has been shown to be positively associated with happiness and learned optimism, both states which lend themselves to better health outcomes.
There is a lightness to play that sheds us of the burden of our internal monologue. It reminds us of our potential because it allows our spirits to break through the monotony of daily life. Healing is the act of becoming whole, wholeness is not an ego-based experience, it the understanding that we are mind/body and spirit.
Caroline Myss explains that every one of us embodies the inner child archetype. So many of us have issues from our wounded inner child that inhibits us from living rich, fulfilling lives. Being playful is a way to nurture the inner child in ourselves. Play does not require recognition; there are no awards or accolades for being a good player, and there is no right or wrong. There is a type of freedom in play because we can heal our lives without having to re-live past hurts.
3. Play is a high vibration activity
In Exercise Physiology, we learn how to teach age appropriate activities and as children grow, the activities become more and more structured, organized and rule laden. Through this we socialize our population to follow rules, compete and win. Setting up the expectation of how to act and what to do - these illusions guide our behavior. Every aspect our lives focus on the outcomes and/or the appearance rather than the experience. Play is the opposite of that, it is the height of co-creation.
Play is spontaneous, light, free and unstructured. It is the expression of the soul. Play occurs in the present moment and is imagination, creativity and action in practice. That is why it is such a high vibrational activity. It unleashes that part of our selves that is often malnourished in our reasoned, logical world. Any time we engage in activities that result in positive emotional states we raise our own vibration.
If you have ever sat and watched a child play, you will appreciate how play keeps them in the present moment. They are not worried about what is for dinner later or lamenting over a past hurt, they are present and fully engaged. In this space they have aligned their heart with their actions. This is a high vibrational state that is unparalled in the adult world of social settings.
4. Play burns calories and much more
We like our exercise to be quantifiable. Again, we put our attention on the outcome. We measure our set and reps, our calories consumed and burned and all of this meets our ideas about what exercise should be. We go to the gym and move our bodies in an unnatural, repetitive fashion that allows the body to move, but where is the joy and the healing in this activity? Exercise by definition is a structure and regimented activity, but what would our day look like if we just included more play?
What if on a regular basis we explored the world from different levels or decided to skip around the block or play an impromptu game of Frisbee? Every time we use our bodies we burn calories, but more importantly it can teach us how our bodies want to move. It allows us to follow our body’s lead. When we follow a specific exercise, we lose awareness of how our bodies want to move naturally. We can put added stress on the body versus allowing our bodies to flow as the spirit moves us.
Play as a state of being
Play isn’t just an activity it is a state of being. It is about being in the present moment with an open heart. It is really a place of non-attachment and joy. Get into nature and explore the world from different levels. Sing and dance for no reason. Run through a sprinkler. Be silly and act without judgment. Be child-like and filled with wonder and curiosity. Allow experience to lead your life not appearances or outcomes. When we live our lives with more balance, movement and joy we create an optimal healing environment in the body. We set ourselves up for great health and a happy life.
Angela Levesque is writer, healer and health educator. She hosts On Health & Healing and House of Iris Radio on a2zen.fm. Angela works with clients doing intuitive lifestyle coaching and Reconnective Healing and teaches several classes on self-care, meditation & weight loss. Visit www.hestiahealth.com for more information. Find her on https://twitter.com/HestiaHealth and http://www.facebook.com/hestiahealth.