Play for Life

It feels like April Fools’ Day sneaks up on me every year! Typically around March 31st I realize what the next day is and I get a bit bummed as my mind goes blank for good practical joke ideas.

The kind of jokes no one gets hurt or shamed by and is actually funny (nothing worse than telling a joke that no one gets… ok, there are worse things, but it’s still a bummer). Sure, the Internet could provide some decent ideas. But most don’t feel right; I no longer work in an office with other people, and they usually take shopping around for hard to find items (Amazon Prime is fast, but not that fast). So I let another April Fools’ Day go by, unacknowledged.

This year, I had a lingering feeling… maybe there is more to me letting April Fools’ Day go by unnoticed besides my claimed reason: lack of planning (cuz, I’m sort of a planner). Maybe it was deeper than that. Did something happen to my imagination? Am I too serious? Did I become dull? Am I just too busy to have fun? I hated to think that maybe the answer is ‘Yes’… this didn’t feel ok to me.

So I turned to the Internet for assistance to find a cure for my self-diagnoses of “dull and lacking imagination.” It was a bit overwhelming. But it was becoming apparent that being creative, using your imagination and having fun, all if which I’ll refer to as Play, takes practice. Sort of like using a muscle, it never goes away, but it certainly goes into atrophy if not used.

There is a lot of info out there about the benefits of play, not just for kids, but for adults as well. Benefits claiming to relieve stress, improve brain function, boost creativity (personally I thought you needed this to play in the first place), improve relationships (whoa!), increase energy, and feel young!

But wait, there’s more… if you actually laugh when you play it releases endorphins (the natural happy chemical) and you could increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Who knew play is the fountain of youth!

Ok, this isn’t actually new news – right?! I think it’s safe to say, we’ve sort of heard this before. The same way we know exercising regularly, eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep is good for us.

But I’m thinking we are more likely to go to the gym or eat an apple than play charades or a silly trick on someone. We might even have good intentions to be more playful… but after a long day of work and a never-ending To Do, we leave little room for play.

We might even feel it takes too much energy to play (and be creative regarding how to play) and instead we tend to zone out with our favorite TV show. Maybe if you have a pet or child harassing you to play, you might half-heartedly engage a bit. But what if you don’t have either? Then what?

We’ve been taught from an early age to work and then we’ll be rewarded with play. Really!? In my experience, the harder you work, the more you work, the less you have time for play and no one is going to come by my desk to excuse me for recess.

So why do these two activities have to be so separate, and why do we feel we have to designate a specific time and place for both? (HA! That sort of sounds like the elusive work/life balance… as if we don’t have a personal life while we were at work and that we could put it in a box… but that’s a topic for a different letter).

What if we could have both work and play integrated at the same time? What if we thought of our work as an opportunity to do it differently, and play with it? If we know play takes work (I wasn’t the self-proclaimed tetherball champ without hard practice and getting the ball slapped in my face a few times) then we know work takes play.

What if we took back recess (took a walk around the block during the work day, shot a few hoops with a co-worker, told a few (clean) jokes to a friend)? What could we gain from integrating play at work? I guarantee you’ll get results.

Maybe you’ll feel less stress; or give your mind a chance to wander and come back with a creative answer, or maybe you’ll simply connect better with your co-workers and make coming to work more enjoyable.

Honestly, I think we’d all be better workers if we played more at work (and it would be a heck of a lot more fun and healthier for us)! So go explore, play, laugh… and get your natural happy drug flowing!