We all want to feel happy and be connected with our loved ones. Play is a natural way for us to feel light and joyful thus spilling over into feelings of happiness and passing that on to the ones we love. Sounds pretty simple. But with our busy schedules and endless “to do” lists and activities, it may take some conscious effort to make this happen.
As this is National Play Therapy Week, February 3-9, I thought this may be a good time to share some thoughts about play and some of it’s wonderful benefits. As a Registered Play Therapist I use play in a therapeutic way in my private practice. Not only is play helpful for children. It is helpful for adolescents and adults as well. Play is truly healing and restorative. It is connecting and relationship building. Play is a wonderful preventative prescription as it requires the focus of being in “the moment”, not worrying about the past or the future.
Let’s look at ways to incorporate more play into your life. And how to do so in the most healthy ways possible.
Play for YOU to Rejuvenate and Relax
- Choose Something That You Really Like or Love, Just for the Pure Enjoyment of It. The key here is YOU and what YOU enjoy and brings YOU pleasure. This is not exercise or your yoga practice, etc. Even though these should bring you pleasure and feel good.
- Choose a Time That You Can Focus on the Playful Time and Let Go of the Past or the Future. Just allowing a time for you and the feeling of playfulness and joy.
- Choose Something that is Lighthearted and Fun. There is lots of time we spend in our life being serious. This is a good thing. But we all need balance. Pure fun is such a freeing feeling that gives us a break from our worry.. So give yourself this gift. You deserve it!
- Take a Break From Your “TO DO LIST”. Doesn’t that sound wonderful. Just not doing anything on this list will open up space to be playful and rejuvenate your spirit.
Some possible playful ideas for YOU:
- Spend time in nature, enjoying all that you love in the outdoor setting.
- Cuddle up with and play with your animals.
- Ride your bike or take a walk in a slow, enjoyable way, taking in all around you. This is different than exercise, more a meditative activity.
- Spend time doing something that brings you joy. Maybe it is cooking or maybe it is painting or writing or playing music or shooting some hoops. Do what brings you joy.
“Playfully Yours” Couple Time
We start out being playful and having fun in our relationships. And as time goes by, you may find this is less so. As one person said to me, “Life gets in the way.” Our lives do become more full with families and more demanding work, etc. So let’s look at ways we can keep the playful / fun in our couple relationships.
- Schedule Time for Fun. That may sound not too playful. But for some folks it is the only way “fun” happens. This can be a weekly date night or date day. It is a great start. This can evolve into more spontaneous playfulness
- Create the Atmosphere and Space for Spontaneous Playfulness. Inject a light heartened response, initiate playful behavior, be flirtatious, etc. Be a “playful person” whenever you can. All this contributes to a more light, positive feeling. Share more positive than negative to help allow for more playfulness to emerge.
- Recognize and Remember the Value of Keeping a Playful Connection. This is a basic core piece of a healthy, vibrant relationship. A playful connection is needed to keep our relationship alive and well. It is a component that we need to nurture and see as important.
- Couple Time is not Group Couple Time. Sometimes we will lump spending time with a group of friends as a couple activity. It is and it is not. True couple time is just the two of you focusing on each other and having fun and being playful together.
- Brainstorm What Playful Things You Want to Do Together. Update with each other what you feel you are missing or really want to do that would make you feel more connected and more happy. Then put them into action.
Family Play Time
Playing together as a family is so “up there” as to healthy family functioning. It helps to build strong, connected relationships. This in turn helps as we do the job of guiding and leading our children. Children respond more cooperatively and have a stronger attachment to parents when the relationship is a balance of playful connection and positive guidance.
In our busy, full lives it can feel challenging to incorporate time for play. But we really need to do so. It may mean looking carefully at what our children and we as adults are involved in. We cannot do it all as much as we would all like to. Of course age of children and special circumstances will play into our decisions.
Things to Consider in Planning Family Play Times
- Consider your children and their age, choosing something that is a developmental fit / age appropriate for them. This will increase their enjoyment as well as yours. In addition, this will set the stage for a successful family play time.
- Think about what your children enjoy, what their passions are and try to make sure these things are a part of the mix. This does not mean we cannot expose them to new things. Alternating what is done with family play time with the different interests within the family is a good thing – helping to give children the gift of being tolerant and ok with doing a variety of things.
- Create a balance of at home and out of the home play times. This is a great modeling of helping children know you can create your own fun in your own home and know you do not have to have a lot of money to do so. Of course it is fun to do adventures out of the house. But again they do not have to be grand vacations. There is lots to do locally and within neighboring towns. And of course, special vacations are great as well.
- Parent / Child Dates for Individual One on One Time. It can be very connecting to have one on one Parent / Child Dates or Play Times if you feel your children crave individual time. Of course this means making sure all your children have their turn to keep harmony within your family.
I wish for you a deep rejuvenation and more happiness as you experience more play in your life. And I wish you well as you as create more playful times within your relationship.