The Mindfulness of Play

Here’s the scenario: You’re burnt out at the office and there are still three more hours until you can leave, or you’re at home with the kids and your to-do list is growing by the minute. You may be feeling stressed, tired, stuck, or bored. Now picture your coworker (or child) appears with two Nerf guns, hands you one, and runs! The next five minutes are filled with excitement and surprise, and I bet you that after this short break you feel revitalized, happier, and more at peace with your current situation.

As adults, we tend not to play simply for the sake of playing the way children do. Who has time for such behavior? Instead, we have responsibilities like jobs, bills, relationships, family, and keeping up with the Kardashians. It’s not difficult to get trapped in a cycle of obligations and deadlines. But before you come up with more excuses, I’m here to give you some incentives and indisputable reasons why playing as an adult is invaluable to sustaining your health and rejuvenating your life!

The definition of ‘play’ is almost as elusive as the concept itself, as each discipline defines the idea in a slightly different way. Some agreed upon characteristics recognized by experts in the field include: voluntary in nature, separation from ordinary life, freedom from time, diminished consciousness of the self, and overall enjoyment. This is where the confluence between the nature of play and mindfulness is elucidated…awareness of this moment and experiencing the now.

Now take a minute to reflect on a moment of playfulness that you experienced recently and be aware of any feelings that arise. How did the moment feel? Did you smile? Were you stressing about your to-do list or were you open, happy, and joyful?

Playfulness is a powerful tool that grounds you to the present moment! It can also:

  • revitalize your spirit
  • spark creativity and inspiration
  • quiet your mind (even if only for a few moments)
  • connect you with your inner child and create a sense of wonder
  • tune your awareness back to our human nature
  • relieve stress, boredom, and redundancy

The idea behind “don’t think about it, play about it” is that, when faced with a challenge, problem, or obstacle, our subconscious mind will help us solve it when we aren’t focusing directly on the issue. Try spending some time on other things (like learning to juggle, dancing, or visiting a swing set) to help clear your mind and refresh your spirit. You may find that answers present themselves more readily in times of distraction, and you may even surprise yourself!

Be mindful of play and bring awareness to your energy levels before and after playful behaviors or activities. Often overlooked by adults, it can be an important means for finding balance. There’s no reason to ever outgrow the need for play!

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