One of my favourite quotes by George Bernard Shaw has a key message:

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”,

Play is for everyone, regardless of age.
Play increases our energy, play increases our vitality.

Many of us are breathing a sigh of relief that 2021 is now over. As 2022 begins, what are your New Year’s resolutions? Let me guess – you have goals around your health, work, relationships, sleep, fitness…..I’d like you to consider another New Year’s resolution – making time for play.

You’re probably saying to yourself: I’m an adult or I’m too old to make time for play – play is for children, right? You’re partially right. There is an abundance of research that supports that play is essential as a child. When children interact and engage in play, they are actively developing their cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills. In fact, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, acknowledges that play is so important for optimal child development – “at the heart of every child, is the right to play”.

Yet, play is equally important for adults. A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown in his TEDX talk, advocates that play is important for all ages, and play is more than just fun – it can improve our lives and enrich our experiences. What’s more, play for adults can be therapeutic, restorative, a source of relaxation and stimulation – a vital means that can release feel good endorphins, reduce stress, improve cognitive health, lower risk of developing age-related diseases and boost overall well-being.

Let’s take the stress-inducing situation of COVID-19. Life during COVID-19 was the first survey in the Families in Australia Survey, that explored how COVID-19 affected our recreational and ‘spare time’ activities. While each family had their unique experience of COVID restrictions and lockdown, this survey found that we spent more time playing games or puzzles, learning a new language, skill or hobby and this had increased across all ages. The most likely age group to be spending more time playing games or puzzles, learning a new language, skill or hobby were people aged 18-29 years, followed by people aged 30-49 years.

Play is not just confined to recreational time. There are many organisations that have introduced play in the workplace. Google, LinkedIn, AirBnB, Nike are just some organisations that encourage play and creativity by offering games rooms, yoga classes, breaks during the day for their employees to be inventive. Incorporating play into a company culture can result in a range of benefits ranging from greater productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater work morale, encouraging team work, increasing energy and prevent burnout.

So, when was the last time that you played?

Here are some tips to make time for play in your life. Dr Stuart Brown suggests by firstly taking your play history by spending some time thinking about what you did as a child that really got you excited. Ask yourself some questions such as:

o When have you felt free to do and be what you choose?
o Is that part of your life now? If not, why not?
o How free are you now as you play with your partner, friends or family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?

Next step is to create opportunities to play. Here are some ideas:

o Take up painting
o Dust off those jig-saw puzzles and Lego blocks
o Learn to play a musical instrument
o Play with a pet or volunteer at your local animal shelter
o Go to the beach, explore its beauty, fly a kite or build sand castles
o Go to the park, slide down the slippery slide or go on the swing
o Sing to your favourite music, sing in the shower, sing anywhere
o Dance to your favourite music or try karaoke
o Host a games night with family or friends
o Look up at the sky during the day and be creative with what you see
o Daydream, as if you were riding on a cloud….

So, what are you waiting for… you’re never too old to make time for play. Give yourself permission to play and have some fun – your mind and body will thank you for it. For me, l’m heading back to play some piano….

Yours in health and wellness, Jacqueline