The benefits of play for children is well documented, but it is also necessary for adults. The more socially acceptable term for adults is hobbies, but the concept is just the same. For adults play relieves stress, stimulates the mind and is importantly, fun. But what is play? In an interview with NPR, Dr. Stuart Brown, the head of the National Institute for Play defined it in this way: “Play is something done for its own sake, It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.” Click here to read the full article.
In recent years, some large companies, such as Google, have made headlines with their casual work atmosphere and unusual perks at work, such as free classes in house, nap pods and gaming at work being allowed. Google does this because their data has led them to conclude that this casual atmosphere encourages employees to work together and create new things. And while people critique this as allowing young people to not grow up, Google continues to be immensely successful, in spite of its seemingly more lax policies.
From personal experience, I was most successful in my most recent job, which had a much more collaborative and socially casual atmosphere in some ways. Staff Meetings would often involve periods of joking and casual conversation, we would always celebrate birthdays, and one day, my boss conducted part of a meeting while wearing a Godzilla mask. I was also given freedom to arrange my work and work station to suit my specific needs and method, and design my own forms and reports. I was working at my church, and I was there for four years, and these more relaxed aspects of the work there helped make the serious and stressful parts less emotionally draining. When you’re in ministry, working at a school, or are a therapist or counselor, time is spent talking with and serving people under extreme strain, and you need to be able to protect your own emotional and mental health, while still being sensitive to others. Otherwise, you’ll burn out and be of no help to anyone.
At home, play provides a way to relieve stress from work and enjoy time with friends and family. As a home-body by nature, I love creative play, such as knitting, sewing, art and music, but I also love getting out and playing with the boys on the playground or in the yard, or curling up with a good book, a video game or an engaging television show. My husband, like me, loves to read, watch TV, game, and play with the boys, but he also loves spending time out in nature such as hiking, swimming or playing golf. One area that we have been working on improving is focusing on quality time together. As introverts who are both very busy, especially after having kids, our time together was reduced significantly, and our relationship suffered a bit because of it. While quality time can include plenty of serious conversation, and that is important to a healthy marriage, play is also important. Doing something you both can enjoy for fun, in our case gaming or getting out for a walk together (ideally with sleeping kiddos in the stroller), improves your relationship by relieving stress and strengthening your bond.
In fact, some big advice I have for couples expecting a baby is to spend at least 15 minutes a day doing something fun or silly together, without the baby being central to it. Tell jokes, play a game, be a complete goof, dance around the kitchen. Something that makes you both laugh. Doing that and telling your spouse you love them daily may not seem like big things, but they help so much. I have a million other things I could suggest, that’s just something we found helps that we didn’t hear from every older couple when we were expecting our first boy.
My plan with this blog is to share my family’s exploration of life through play. Especially as we figure out how to utilize and limit technology appropriately. I’m planning on reviewing things from a parent’s and family oriented perspective, sharing stories and adventures, as well as writing some more researched posts regularly about how play works and can improve the quality of our lives. It’s a gift after all.
“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.” -Brian Sutton-Smith