Play for a Calmer, Happier You and for Better Relationships

photo by noah silliman

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

photo by ariana prestes
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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

photo by scott web

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.

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

photo by caroline hernandez

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


DATE NIGHTS – Are they really needed? YES, YES, YES

Attractive couple portrait.

Ok, you have been married 5 years or maybe 25 years. Is it really necessary to go to all the trouble to have a date night? I say YES, YES, YES. You may be thinking, but that is for before you get married, when you are getting to know someone better or wooing your sweetheart. Of course it does fit during those times.  But don’t we want to continue to know and understand our partner as they grow and develop? Plus courting behavior will keep your connection strong and vibrant. Let’s look at some more reasons why we may want to consider having DATE NIGHTS.


  1. First of all it is a message we send to each other that we love and want to stay connected with each other. Plus, it shows we value spending one on one time with our partner and that they are worth the effort of planning and executing doing some fun, enjoyable things together.
  2. Our worlds are crazy busy and without planned one on one time, it may not happen. Sometimes I hear the objection of doing a planned activity, voicing that aren’t spontaneous outings better. I do agree spontaneous outings and times together are magical and I think important. But, I also know realistically with heavy work schedules, children’s events, community or church involvement, etc., the chances of the spontaneous outings are harder to come by. They can and still should be a part of dates I think. But if you have a planned, set time you go out together, it is more likely to happen if you are as busy as most couples and families are today. So by all means do both if you can, but for a “sure deal” consider scheduling a weekly date night.
  3. A DATE NIGHT gives you an opportunity to stay connected on a level past “Who is picking up the children?” or “How was your day?” These are important conversations. But to really have time to “be with” each other and converse at a deeper level, a time just for one on one focus of one another is so helpful.
  4. It is a good model for our children. We are teaching our children what to do to stay connected and nurture a relationship. Whatever we present to our children can affect how they will interact as a couple. They may not say, “I am so happy you are going out tonight.” but as they develop their own future relationships they will have learned that this is one of the ways couples care and stay connected with one another. This is how they show their love and commitment.



  • First of all, a date night can be a date day or date lunch or date breakfast, etc. They do not have to be at night. Do what works for you.
  • If possible do put in place a regular set time. This will keep you more on track with this kind of structure. On the other hand, if this is not possible then consider planning a month out with times that you know will work in your schedule. Do what you need to do to create this special time. Sometimes it means getting creative. It may be a lunch date at the park during your work day.
  • Find a babysitter you REALLY like and trust if you have children. This will allow you to fully enjoy your date night.
  • Try to schedule enough time to really relax and enjoy yourselves. On the other hand, if you have young children and feel uncomfortable being gone for too long, then take the time you do feel comfortable with and enjoy it.
  • Planning for your date night can be done in a couple different ways. 1. You can do a joint, collaborative planning. 2. You can take turns planning them. 3. Or a mix of the previous suggestions. You can talk about it and see what fits you as a couple. One of the keys is trying to incorporate things you both enjoy doing. This can be things you both enjoy doing or it can be a taking turns in some kind of fashion as to including individual interests. Of course if one of you really hates doing a particular something, it may or may not be something you put on the date night list
  • Think outside of the “dinner and a movie” box. This is not to say that you may not enjoy this and want to do this. Sometimes it is a relaxing, comfort date. This is just a suggestion to consider broadening your activity palette. This keeps things lively and fun. You might brainstorm together every so often, a list of things you might like to do together. You can keep this list handy as you schedule in your date nights.
  • Consider using your date night to develop some new joint interests. This might be cooking classes or hiking or biking, etc.
  • Make it a TECHNOLOGY  or SCREEN FREE date night. Basically, this would be choosing not to engage in using cell phones or other technology devices while you are on your date. This would include no texting. The problem is that when we are on our phone or texting, etc,  we are not really present or there for our partner. And that is really the purpose of a date night. So screened devices and being on a date are a bit at odds with each other. There are exceptions. Some folks have jobs in which they are on call and have no choice. If this can be kept to the minimum this can help.
  • If you cannot do your date night, if at all possible reschedule for another day or night that week. This keeps the commitment to each other to have this time together on a regular basis.

Date, Play, Enjoy this wonderful life together. ♥♥

Balancing “In the Moment” and “Creating a Vision” for our Realtionships

Barefoot_couple____by_sergey1984There is a lot of talk today about living “in the moment”.  And on the other end of the spectrum we hear a lot about “setting a vision” or a goal to keep us going where we want to go. So which is it? In the moment or creating a vision? I say both!

As this blog is focused on relationships, I will use relationships as the base to work around for discussing this balancing act of “living in the moment” and “creating a vision” for what we want. And I do think it is a real balancing act and that it will probably look a bit different for each couple or family.  I do think that we all struggle with this question or opposing viewpoint on how we live our lives. So how can we have both in our relationships? Let’s first look at the two, at first look, very different philosophies of how we live our lives and relate to our loved ones. And then how we might possibly combine these two different ideas.

What does “in the moment” really mean???  Well, most feel this is living fully within the place and time you are given.  Really being “in the present” and not focusing on the past or the future.  Concentrating on the time and place you are in and who you are with and the gift of the interaction between the two of you. It is a lovely thought and can have a very freeing feeling to only be in the here and now and really focusing on your loved one.

Then there is the “vision makers”. Those who want to create visions and goals. There are some differences here I suppose as to visions and goals and how folks define these words. This may look very different for different folks. But my version would be creating visions or goals that are what we feel would most fit our lives and in this case fit our relationships. For example: the vision of what you want your relationship to look like and concretely making that happen to the best of your ability.

So can we have both, I say yes we can. We can create visions and goals for our relationships and work to make them happen.  Of course, jointly deciding what we both want and creating a “joint vision” is the most healthy and satisfying for both people in the relationship.  Then within that framework we fully enjoy the moments we have with each other and we take the time to really “be with” the ones we love. Basically, I am suggesting we CHOOSE to jointly “create a vision” of what we both want for our relationship and we go for it, meaning we pull out all the stops to make that happen. And we enjoy this wonderful ride with each other. Yes there will be bumps along the way, but we have each other to hang onto! Here is the to wonderful roller coaster of life. Enjoy!