Make Time for Play

3 min read

By Jared Miller

Society expects adults to show a certain amount of maturity and responsibility, and most of us tend to fall in line. We tell ourselves that there's no time for play -- we've got work to do. Lots and lots of work. Entire email threads of it, in fact -- and more coming in every minute.

We know: Acting like a responsible adult day in and day out can be very stressful. So regardless of how long it's been since you last took a well-deserved day off, we're thinking that now's the perfect time for you to set a few of those to-dos aside for a while and have some good old-fashioned fun. (Monopoly, anyone?)

Making time for play can be very beneficial. Don't believe me? Well, see if any of these excuses sound familiar:

But... I don’t see the point. How does less stress, an improved immune system, clearer thinking and better efficiency throughout the day sound? According to clinical psychologist Paul W. Schenk, Psy.D., cutting loose and engaging in playful activities can activate the “relaxation response,” wherein our brains release chemicals (such as serotonin) that both help us relax and increase blood flow to our minds. “The brain’s ability to generate good ideas and evaluate those ideas works better when in this mode," says Schenk.

But... I’ll feel guilty. Schenk says many people feel guilty because they think in terms of should. “If you don’t do what you think you 'should' do, you will feel guilty," he says. "Telling yourself you 'should' act like an adult will bring guilt if you decide to act a little immaturely, because 'should' is a partially internalized value or belief.” Avoid that guilt by owning your choices. “I suggest replacing that toxic word ['should'] with either ‘want’ or ‘choose,’” Schenk says.

But... I’ll set a bad example for my kids. Parents want their children to become productive members of society, so it’s natural for them to worry about setting a good example. Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., a psychologist and blogger for Psychology Today, believes that how play is presented to children is key. “Parents need to give their children the message that play is fine, but that taking care of certain responsibilities -- like completing homework assignments -- must be given higher priority,” he says. “Another way of saying this is that dessert is fine, but dinner must be seen as more important -- and that dessert cannot come before, or take the place of, dinner.” You can set an example by acting responsibly most of the time, but it's also a good idea to let your kids know that you're not afraid to goof off occasionally.

But... I’m too old for this shtick! No, you're not. Playing is important, no matter how old you are. Play will “reduce stress and help the heart, body, mind and soul recharge, reenergize and rebalance itself,” says Schenk. Instead of focusing on what you might look like to others, think about the stress that will melt away. According to Schenk, the more invested you are in the fun activity (whatever it is), the less you'll care about whether or not people are judging you.

But... I don’t know how to play. OK, so you’ve accepted the idea of loosening the proverbial tie. Here’s what you do: whatever you want! Toss a Frisbee to your dog. Start a tickle fight with someone who's extremely giggly. Play hooky and break out the board games. Take your family on an impromptu daycation. After you return to Responsible Adultsville, you'll feel better for it.