Do you remember the moment you stopped playing? If that’s too much of a stretch, try and remember the last time you actually remember playing. Perhaps it was with found objects that your young mind turned into DIY toys, a favourite Barbie or Action Man or perhaps your play was linked to sport or dance?
Can you remember how it felt?
Now, think back to when you were told: ‘it’s time to grow up’. I don’t know if there’s a universally accepted age that’s agreed upon, but there comes a time when our parents and teachers start to tell us, ‘aren’t you a little old for that?’, ‘act your age’, ‘you’re a big boy/girl now’. I could go on, but I don’t know why this happens. All of a sudden, we’re more self-conscious and made to feel almost ashamed for indulging in our favourite pastimes.
In childhood, play is linked to learning both from an educational standpoint and social, and there are plenty of studies to support this. But when it comes to adult play, there’s far less research. However, what I did find was that there is a resounding argument for pursuing adult play. Here’s why.
IT KEEPS YOU YOUNG
It’s clear that while scientists try and find a way for us to be truly immortal (it’s true!) many of us are at least interested in staying alive longer. To ensure that those extra years are ones that you can actually enjoy, adding play to your daily activities could be all the difference. You know that saying: ‘use it or lose it’? Well it’s been proven that once we decide that we need to ‘slow down’, our bodies have no choice but to follow our bidding in an effort to preserve energy.
To quote playwright George Bernard Shaw:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
IT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Play is a state of mind that can affect everything, from your work to relationships. Sharing laughter and fun enables you to relate more to others, and in turn trust and intimacy can grow.
IT HELPS YOU STAY CREATIVE
Play isn’t just for those with creative roles; it’s also beneficial for those who just want to approach life in a more creative way. By adding an element of play we learn faster and our imagination is stimulated.
IT HELPS YOU PROBLEM SOLVE
As we get older we tend to take ourselves more seriously. We begin to associate with tribes that we feel make sense, whether that’s in real life or on social media. Oftentimes, what comes with this, is a feeling of inflexibility; that whole, ‘if you support this, then you can’t acknowledge that.’ We become less open to other options and it keeps our thinking small. By adding play to our days we relax more and become more open to other possibilities – we even argue differently and are more capable of solving puzzles.
IT CAN HEAL
We pick up so many beliefs and habits that are down to how we have been treated in the past, both in childhood and as adults. Learning to play again can help us revisit moments and reframe them in a way that makes them seem a lot less harmful. For instance, by playing with a secure partner, an emotionally-insecure person can replace negative assumptions with positive ones. Playing as a couple can also ensure the lines of communication stay open over the years to come.
One of the benefits of spending time on lockdown is a renewed love for play. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been deprived of so many joys that we might have taken for granted in the past? Or perhaps it’s simply because we’ve found ourselves with more time on our hands, and spending hours with Netflix and ice cream has already gotten old.
Head to any social media platform and you’ll see real joy. Something I’ve personally loved is the amount of women picking up their rollerskates again. It’s something I used to do myself as a teenager, but it seems life and self-consciousness made me stop. Perhaps I’d grown too conscious of my size, and skates just seemed silly. Regardless, seeing women such as artist Kay Davis and the brilliant Berlin-based Oumi Janta (who’s amassed over 800,000 followers during lockdown) thoroughly enjoying themselves on their skates has inspired me to dust off mine. On a recent progress post on her Instagram Kay Davis said:
“My spirit feels awake when I skate in my own company. I could skate in circles, fall over and be trash but it still won’t matter because I do it for myself and peace of mind. I’m not in a rush. I’ve found something I love.”