Why is play so important?
Sometimes I think we take ourselves too seriously and lose sight of what life is about. When we are ill, or stressed and unhappy, the weight of these emotions can make us feel wretched. There have been countless projects looking at happiness and how we find it, but what if the truth is that it isn’t outside our own bodies and minds? Looking elsewhere is just short lived and dissatisfying without first going inside ourselves to find the solution.
Through play, we can shift our perspective to the present moment. Try this - think about your surroundings, what you can see and hear. Imagine the feeling of your clothes on your body. Try and ignore any physical or mental pain by pushing it to the background as much as possible. Breathe deep, imagining you are breathing in good healthy air and expelling any negatively when you breathe out. Do this deeply three times. Expect this to make you feel good – it doesn’t have to be a miracle cure, but enough to feel better than before.
Now think about what you like to do that is playful. What games do you like to play? What activities make you smile? Sit back and imagine you are doing the activity in your mind’s eye. See yourself having an amazing bike ride, or football game, or knitting a beautiful jumper – whatever the thing is, imagine it and let the feeling flow over you. Imagine you are doing your activity with someone special – a film star you admire, a pop star, an author or a sport’s person, your best friend or family member. It doesn’t matter how many people you imagine, just enjoy the pleasure of the game. Let the scenario play out. What do they say and do? What is fun and goes well? What is the outcome?
Breathe deep and enjoy the thoughts you allow in your head. Let them flow for no reason other than enjoying the imagination you have. Allow yourself these fantasies whenever you have a quiet moment. At the end of your time, let the pictures drift away and thank your mind for creating them. Be clear that this is a form of playing and is not real – it is just for fun.
Adult and Child Play
Feeling better on the inside can help us when we share play with others. If you have children in your family, ideally have a play session with them. Borrowing them from friends can also be an option (with permission!). Don’t control the play. Let the child be the leader and you are their play slave. Listen carefully to their direction and follow it. Before you can analysis what is happening, you will tap into your innate knowledge of how to play and will start enjoying yourself. If you try to control the play, your adult part will take over and the authentic part of play will not work. Also try not to become childish - just be childlike (if you allow yourself to be childish, you’ll feel out of sorts and it won’t be much fun). Go with the child and you will be amazed how it feels. Remember this feeling when you next want to play without children.
Sport and Hobby Play
Play without a child is about the balance between what goes on in your head (your imagination) and what you physically do. Team sport is a good way of exploring this as you can use both parts to physically experience the play with other people, which then will trigger your internal play. If you don’t like team sport, allow your play to be day-dreamy, refreshing and challenging (if it’s a quiet personal play such as putting a jigsaw together, or crafts, or a solo sport like cycling or swimming may be). If your play is losing yourself in a book or film, once again allow your imagination to take the concept further. What are the characters doing in 10 years’ time? Who would you be in the story? Share the theme with someone else and discuss what you did and didn’t like. Book clubs exist for this type of play. If possible, try and find other people who also like your form of play and do it with them, or talk about it with them. Allow your heart to be light and enjoy the exchanges. Delight in the feeling of doing something that makes you feel curious and interested in what is happening around you. Engage in your play in as many ways as you can and you will have respite for the difficulties in life and the pains in our bodies and minds.
Enjoy Your Play Time!
Thinking about play in this way, is at the heart of what we do at The Hands-On Company. Sometime just by giving us all permission to dream and engage in play, can be healing and enjoyable for all ages.