When you look up the definition for ‘Play’ in the dictionary, the following two definitions come up:
- To engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
- To take part in (a sport).
Notice the really important part there? We’re talking about doing something for no reason other than you want to – something without purpose.
For me, this is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s a place where I’m completely absorbed by what I’m doing; where I’ve developed intense bonds with friends who now feel like family; a place where I can be goofy and silly, where I can make mistakes without judgement; it’s essentially a place where I get to be a kid.
In today’s goal-obsessed culture, doing something without purpose feels counter-intuitive to many people. Shameful even. Yet, taking time to be in that state, where time doesn’t matter; where we’re often deeply connected to ourselves and those around us; is vital to our mental health and happiness.
According to Play Researcher, Stuart Brown,
“Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organised around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively. When play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become incapable of feeling sustained pleasure.”
In fact, the research shows that play improves brain function, boosts creativity, relieves stress, maintains physical fitness, strength and flexibility and improves relationships.
See why it isn’t just for kids?
If you’re someone like me, with German-genes and major workaholic tenancies, taking time to play might come with guilt attached at first. You might feel like you’re doing something wrong; that you should be elsewhere, being productive.
When this happens, simply remind yourself that your worth isn’t measured by your productivity; that you’re allowed to just ‘be’; and that actually, you’ll get a lot more done pouring from a full cup rather than an empty one.