What do you think about when you hear the word “play”?
You may think of children having fun in the sun or sand or in the rain, busy with building blocks or barbie dolls, drawing or dancing. When was the last time you had that childlike, carefree feeling? Which words would you use to describe the way you felt? Joyful, fun, giddy, excited, happy, worry-free, light? That’s what we’re talking about!
When I think of playing, I think of:
Letting go of my perfectionistic, over-responsible adult self for a while
Not worrying about what others think or about the end result
Making mistakes but getting back up and trying again
Doing something pointless, just for the fun of it
Trying or learning something new
Forgetting about time
What would you add to this list?
As adults, you have probably got the professional, purposeful, productive part down, well, at least most of the time. But somewhere along the way, we forgot how to play. Unless you are one of those bright beings who haven’t, then feel free to skip this article and drop some playful advice in the comments 🙂 Because admittedly, as I write about this theme, I realize that this is one of the points I need to practice more myself. It takes courage and discipline to take a break from productivity mode to press ‘play’.
That said, how do we go about reclaiming that playfulness?
Here are my three top tips to get started:
1. Observe the Obstacles
In order to improve our ability to play, we first need some obstacles out of our way. This first tip is about becoming aware of all the arguments that arise, once we consider doing something playful. The best way to find out is to ask, what does your serious, adult self say about the theme of ‘play’?
Some thoughts could be: “why would I waste my time ‘playing’? I have so much to do and think of already.” Or: “What use is there in doing something without use?” Or: “I am afraid I might make a fool out of myself”. “What will other people think or say when they see me like this?”. “I have never done this before, I probably can’t do it.” Or simply: “playing is for children”.
Now the next step is to have some fun with these thoughts. You could, in your mind, watch a funny comedian or character play out this thought to you. For instance, a little while ago I went stand-up paddling with a friend. I had all these anxious thoughts about falling into the water, in the city-center, someone I know seeing me plus having to cycle home all wet. Well there’s a fun movie to play in your mind. It really helps to exaggerate those stories your mind makes up. You could also imagine how you would tell that story to a friend afterwards if it did actually happen. Finding the fun within these fearful thoughts. Try until you have to laugh at least a little about it. Now you’re on the right track. Keep going!
2. Set up a playdate
The second tip involves your schedule to set up a playdate with yourself. Yep, you read that well. Are you paying attention to your serious adult self’s arguments from step 1? By this point it should be on fire. So start with an hour or an afternoon to simply play.
You could spend this time alone or with a friend, preferably one you’ve had some good old belly laughs with in the past. Then select a positively pointless activity.
Here are some ideas to get your started: You could play with clay or playdough, paint or draw, dance or sing along to your guilty-pleasure-playlist (or make one!). You could watch a comedy or funny animal clips, or simply walk into a toy store and choose an activity for your next playdate. You could join a class that seems fun but is way out of your comfort zone. You could play games with friends or play with children (if you don’t have your own children, your nieces or nephews, neighbor’s, friends’ or grandkids). You will have the added feel-good-factor of making some parents very happy. You get the idea. Find something fun for you and schedule a time to enjoy it.
3. Integrating a playful attitude into your daily life
Last but not least, we’re wanting our playful attitude to not just show up on our playdate, but throughout our day. I always think about Italians when I think of bringing more play into my day. The way a waiter turns each of his countless cappuccini into a work of art, while cracking a joke at the same time. ‘Perfetto’. My dad also has this talent of always having a joke or funny comment handy whenever we’re, well, anywhere. He makes people laugh and lightens up the atmosphere.
This third point is about attentively watching for opportunities to lighten up someone’s mood or of course your own. You could look for moments to say something funny, start a chat with a ‘stranger’. You could wear a colorful outfit, lipstick, or happy socks. You could read or write a serious text with a funny accent in your head (I recently wrote a blog post while hearing Michel from Gilmore Girls reading each word in my head). Of course, you can also ask yourself at times:
What would make my inner child happy? Then do more of that 🙂
Now I would LOVE to hear from you. How will you bring more play into your day? Or perhaps you have another suggestion for more lighthearted living? I’d love to read it in the comments!
Wishing you a fun, playful and light-hearted rest of your day!