Do I need to be playful and light-hearted to be happy and connected? It depends!

tennis shoes black and white with heart in between

Is it necessary to be playful and show your “fun” side to be happy and connected? I think this depends on what you want from your life. If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you might consider the many benefits of having some “play time”. What this means will be different for different folks. There is planned play and then there is random acts of playfulness. Sometimes a mix of both. All are good for you. Play is not just for children. Let’s look at some ways that play is beneficial, some of the components of healthy, restorative play and some thoughts on both planned play and random acts of playfulness.

Benefits of Tapping Into Your Playful Self

  • It gives your overworked brain a break. In particular your amygdala, the center that alerts you if there is potential danger or harm coming your way. When your amygdala is calm, so are you. The relaxed state of play can give your brain a needed break.
  • Play gives you respite from worry and upset. When you are in a playful state, your focus has shifted away from the worries and stresses of your life.
  • Play is a wonderful medium to help you connect with your loved ones. ♥♥  Play can create a space for loving / nurturing interactions . Actually for all relationships: couples, parents and children, siblings, families.
  • A relaxed play state can help you recharge and think more clearly, allowing for more creativity and effective problem solving.  I know many of my best ideas come when I am in a relaxed state.
  • Play can aid in healing mentally or physically. Being in a relaxed, non stressed state gives our body the rest it needs to heal.
  • It can bring you joy and happiness. And isn’t that something we all want and desire!

 Components of Healthy, Restorative Play

  • Competition is not emphasized. In its purest form it would be cooperative and mutually satisfying. There can be healthy competitive play. Considering your goal would be good here. In general for all those involved, cooperative play is going to feel the best for all concerned and do more for relationship building. Competitive play can help one prepare for the competitive world we live in and develop a healthy outlook on competition, especially if developmental age and talents are considered. But for the goal of lowering stress and relationship building, cooperative play is best. If you do something with a winner / loser, keep it light. If you are doing this as a family, model a light-hearted approach to your game.
  • It is fun and all those involved are enjoying it. Basically it should be mutually satisfying for all.
  • It is inclusive. No one is left out or made to feel as it they are not a real part of the play.
  • If it is parent child or family play, it is at the children’s developmental level. If something is too far above our level of understanding or capabilities , it is stressful. This goes for children and adults.
  • It feels uplifting and positive. There is focus on fun and enjoyment. We would of course avoid criticizing or telling another what to do. This is not to say that redirecting and establishing appropriate boundaries and limits for children are not a needed component.
  • There is a healthy flow of taking turns in leading the play. It has a cooperative, shared kind of feel to it. No one person dominating.
  • It does not involve electronic devices and these are not used during your play. This would be in the purest state the most conducive for interaction. There may be some times that watching a funny movie or doing an electronic game together may be what you want. But other forms of play will bring lots of other additional benefits. Or at least keeping it balanced can be helpful between the two avenues. If you are using electronic devices you can try to remember to add in playful touches and conversation. Plus more one on one non screen interaction afterwards.
  • Healthy, fun bantering and light-hearted teasing as a couple. With children (and with some adults) it is best to gauge for sensitivity and upset with your light-hearted teasing. This is meant to be fun, not hurtful at any level.
  • Open affection and laughter is a good hallmark of healthy play.  Holding hands, hugs, kisses, friendly and open interest.
  • You feel expansive and good during and afterwards. There is a light feeling that is a part of this kind of play.

play don't forget to play pic of swing set

 

Planned Play

Due to the very busy lives we all lead, it is necessary to plan for times of play or opportunities for play. For some it may not happen unless it is planned. This is not a bad thing, just a necessary thing. Even within the planned times, you will find opportunities for more spontaneous, out of the box playfulness. Having set play times can be very helpful for busy couples or families. It may be a planned family activity once a week. Or a date night in which playful things are included. Or a quarterly get away for a couple to relax and play. This does not have to be far away, just a scheduled time to “be together” in a playful fun state. But most of all it is is important to remember that play is not so much about a specific get away or activity (even thought that can be fun), but more about a state of mind and attitude and blocking of time to create an atmosphere or space where it is more likely to happen. 

Some other examples:

  • Doing versions of child activities as adults or with adolescents. And of course, doing child activities with your children. This creates a fun base that encourages playfulness. Some examples: Silly String Fight. Blowing Bubbles. Slap Jack.
  • Creative activities lead to allowing for playfulness. Things such as: Arts and Crafts. Cooking. Decorating. Lego Building. Telling Stories.
  • Encouraging humor. Telling jokes. Watching funny movies together. Parents and children reading funny books together.
  • Being in nature together. Spending time outdoors creates a sense of well-being that can allow for more playful feelings.

Random Acts of Playfulness

Is there anything better than having some random acts of playfulness happening? I think not. I love this the very best myself. For example: I was at a muddy outdoor event and my husband decided to give me a piggy back ride across an especially muddy area. It was so light-hearted and fun. That was actually the high light of that fun event we attended. It just felt so playful and fun.

Random acts of playfulness are really more about acting from our playful side of our self. It is about being open to this playfulness by both people. Letting our self have this light, freeing interaction even at times that are not ideal can help relieve stress. Maybe you have a hard day, but you come home and decide to let that slide away and be with your loved one in a way that promotes a feeling of connection and playfulness. It is a lovely choice we can choose to make.

  Ending Notes 

There are times when we do need to be serious and have extreme focus.  As with so many things in life BALANCE is a real key. Your playful self is wonderfully complementary. Here is to lots of playful, connecting times ahead!

Please let me know of Random Acts of Playfulness that have occurred for you. This may give other ideas as to how to express this fun, more spontaneous side of themselves. Maybe we should all take a pledge of seeing how many Random Acts of Playfulness we can spread around this next week. What a win – win situation, for us and our loved ones!

 

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