PLAY – why it became passe and why it so needed

Turns out, neglecting play has repercussions for our health and well-being. As our responsibilities mount with age, playing often gets the short end of the stick. And, because we live in a society that values progress, purposefulness and achievement, adult play is frequently looked upon as frivolous at best, self-indulgent at worst. Yet clinical studies of humans and decades of animal research are consistent in finding that play is quantitatively good for you. According to the National Institute for Play, playing builds creativity, boosts immunity, unearths hidden talents, increases joy, fosters community, combats stress and keeps the mind sharp and nimble.

On the other hand, a life deficient in play can have dramatic consequences. Dr. Stuart Brown, clinical psychologist, founder of the National Institute for Play, became interested in the significance of play after researching the play histories of similar men, some of whom became violent criminals. Lack of play, it turns out, proved to be a “stark and dramatic correlation” among those who became violent criminals. Other researchers have been quoted saying that the opposite of play isn’t work–it’s depression.

So how do we get back to playing after months or years of drought? If a week at a spa or retreat is not an option, turn to the experts – the children or animals in your life. Watch them, interact with them, be inspired by their commitment to playing. Or, Brown suggests, “Review the cherished memories of childhood. Ask yourself, ‘what did I enjoy most?”

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