Need to be more productive? Play First.

Photo: Neosha Gardner

It is all too easy to fall into a rut even with things we love like self care. When we do the same thing over and over, we find ourselves going through the motions. This can make self care feel like a chore, but that is the exact opposite of what a self care practice is all about. Self care is all about making you feel refreshed, energized, relaxed and centered. If your self care practice isn’t doing that, then it might be time to do things differently. 

When I was teaching, I remember being very stressed.  When I did have down time, my self care routine felt like another thing task on my checklist. One of my mentors suggested I try finger painting to relieve stress. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous but went to the store and bought the paint and paper. For an entire week, I painted with my fingers just like a preschooler.  Every time I finished painting, I felt calmer and more grounded. I started to try other after that- like trampolining, building blanket forts, and going to the playground. I began to see how important play was for me. Play has now become an important part of my self care practice.

Play is a powerful form of self care that is easy to overlook, especially when we are full on adulting. 

What exactly does it mean to play? 

Dr. Stuart Brown, author of the book Play,  calls play a “state of being,” “purposeless, fun and pleasurable.” Basically, play is about doing something fun without having any particular goal in mind.  The key word is fun. If it isn’t fun for you, then don’t force it.  When you are engaged you are having fun for the sake of having fun. It is not about getting IG followers or hitting any kind of goal.

Why is play important? 

Many studies have shown the positive effects of play for children. Turns out these same affects apply to adults,too. Engaging in play regularly can increase productive, increase creativity, and deepen bonding between people. 

How to play in everyday life

If we take Brown’s definition, play can look like a multitude of things. It can look like finger painting or jumping rope or going to the playground. It can also look like building a fort or splashing in puddles or visiting a candy store. The key here is that whatever you are doing. Play isn’t just about competition, though, it might include that, too if you want to get a couple of friends and play tag.

Where do you find playful things to do? A good place to start is your childhood. Think about what you loved to do as a child. Dr. Brown refers to this as a play history. What did you love doing as a kid? What things got you super excited. 

Here are a few other things that you could try, too: 

  • Plan a playdate with your friends. Gather up some of your friends and have a playdate. Play freeze tag or red light, green light. Remember that play doesn’t have to be competitive either. 
  • Visit a toy store- Get curious and pick out some toys that speak to you seem interesting.
  • Interact with kids. If you have friends with kids, get some ideas from them about what to play.

The next time you find yourself getting bored with your self care practice, tap your inner child and start playing. 

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