Imagine walking down the street and hearing laughter and hollering coming from around the corner. Assuming it is a group of children, you turn the corner and see blindfolded adults being led around by other adults. Balls fly through the air as the blindfolded people attempt to tag other blindfolded people. In the midst of it all you see that these people are clearly having fun.
Most parents know about the importance of play for their children, but what about the importance of play for grown-ups?
The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate.
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” There is probably more truth to the saying than most realize. Research indicates that without play, it is hard to give your best at work or at home.
What do you do on a regular basis for fun? When did you last go down a slide, play hide and go seek or join a good game of wiffle ball? Many adults have the mindset that they are too old to be playful. There is actually strong evidence that this could not be further from the truth. Play may be the very thing that keeps you young and healthier. In fact, studies show that a life lived without play is at increased risk for stress-related diseases, mental health issues, addiction and interpersonal violence.
Are there more benefits?
According to the NIP, play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature, it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding.
Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. Additionally, it gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these byproducts are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.
It also enhances relationships. The NIP cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.
Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humor, the enjoyment of novelty and the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies. Other hallmarks are the enjoyment of mutual storytelling and the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies.
Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and a deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy. Who wouldn’t want this in a relationship?
Believe it or not, the blindfolded adults were actually working. This playfulness was part of a work activity. When finished, almost without exception, each person commented on how good it felt to play and how energized they felt. When they began to actually work on a project, many said they could feel high energy levels in the room.
Just as children need play to help them de-stress, play can help adults be at their best when it comes to career, parenting and marriage. Instead of looking at play as a waste of precious time, consider it a great investment in well-being.