The good ole days
Now that my kids are in their elementary school years, I find myself often recalling my experiences as a child. Life was much simpler back then. My thoughts were mostly consumed by the pursuit of fun and enjoyment. Places to explore, jokes to make, stories to tell, things to collect, art to create, games to play. If I wasn’t in the middle of one, I was looking forward to the next one. My favorite activities as a kid were playing baseball and fishing in the pond down the street from my house. I have gone fishing once in the last calendar year and I can’t remember the last time I played a game of baseball. As adults, our thoughts and efforts often shift exclusively to duties and responsibilities connected with home, family, and work. To an extent, this shift is inevitable, but completely abandoning our pursuit of play can have devastating consequences.
The opposite of play is…
Work is often thought of as the antithesis of play. According to psychiatrist and clinical researcher, Stuart Brown, M.D., “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression. Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.” As children, play tends to be the primary way we pursue enjoyment and fulfillment. It also provides the primary means for social interaction with our peers and adults. Play provides a foundation for many of the skills we use as we age and helps us to understand the rules and parameters that govern our social interactions.
The healing power of play
A synonym for play is recreation. When we engage in recreation, we are refreshed and new life is breathed into our souls. In a way, we are recreated through play. We experience joy and fulfillment, which have the power to invigorate and satisfy us. We experience awe and wonder, which have the power to heal us. When we play, we experience less inhibition and the freedom to be our most authentic selves. We can bring balance back to our lives and reconnect with who we were created to be.
How to play
As you might expect, there is no singular way to play. For one person, there is no greater enjoyment than can be found out on a hike in the woods. For another, that may seem like a boring way to spend the afternoon. Some may love to engage socially through competition, while others may prefer the solitude experienced while creating a piece of art or reading a good book. To get the most out of your play, you need to understand how you are wired. Dr. Brown refers to these different styles of play as Play Personalities. There are eight personalities that he identifies: The Joker, The Explorer, The Director, The Collector, The Competitor, The Kinesthete, The Artist/Creator, and The Storyteller. Understanding your play personalities can unlock a world of opportunities to find enjoyment and fulfillment in your life.
Brown, Stuart. Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. p. 126.
Come back next month for part 2 of this series where we will explore the eight play personalities and how to identify which ones belong to you.