Why Is Playing So important?
Play is a mode of life for some and comes naturally for others, but for people like me, it is a discipline. Does that just feel like taking a beautiful piece of citrus and squeezing all of the juice out of it? Because of the serious nature of my personality, I probably would give it no attention at all except for the research that explains that play is not icing on the cake, it is a basic need. We must take care of our self. We must be in relationships. We must work and we must play. Brene Brown speaks to this when she uncovered that “unused creativity becomes rage and depression.”
After an especially demanding and overstimulating several months, my daughter and I fasted dopamine for 24-hours. Nothing “fun” for an entire day. No food, music, screens, books, friends, caffeine or alcohol. In the “yes” column are water, decaf beverages, light exercise, and writing. (Full disclosure: she fasted for lunch only, I fasted for breakfast and lunch only). Our motivation in doing the fast was to regulate our nervous systems. The surprising gain was a reconnection to play. All of our typical demands and distractions were unavailable to us, opening up the rest of the world. There was a dog to play fetch with, a bath to take, nails to paint. There were drawers to organize, board games to play and walks to be savored. We had new teas to taste, fresh watercolor pencils to try out, birds to feed and watch.
Play is as varied as the person who is playing. However, when we are talking about True Self, it must be distinguished from entertainment. Our over-pinged minds and bodies will resist the subtle and simple urges of play, which is why the dopamine fast is helpful. We have become quite addicted to our “play” being handed to us. Entertainment can be fun and there is certainly a place for it, but it will not give us the restorative and esteem building gifts of play.
The Journal of Play says, “Jean Piaget once wrote, ‘Play is the answer to the question: how does anything new come about?’ When we provide opportunities for—and allow time for— self-initiated play, we are ensuring the full development of curiosity, imagination, and creativity. We are striking the right balance between love, work, and play.”
How does anything new come about? If you want something new in your life, play.