Rediscover Play and How It Can Heal Body, Mind and Spirit After 60
What I remember best about my friend is her playfulness. She is one of the few adults in my circle who really knew how to play. She enjoyed a long, fulfilling life despite many hardships along the way. I’ll always remember her joy and laughter.
Play Just for the Fun of It
Kids don’t need to be taught how to play. As adults, many of us have forgotten how. The best play is unstructured, without competition or rules to follow. It’s something we do just for the fun of it.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the old proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It can make for a boring life for Jill as well.
Play is an activity we get so engaged in, we lose track of time. It allows us to let our guard down, stop being so serious and just have some fun.
Play is good for mental and physical well-being. It enhances creativity and problem-solving as well as how we interact with others. Playing with problems can spark creative solutions.
Dr. Stuart Brown is the founder of the National Institute for Play. He suggests we surround ourselves with playful people because play can facilitate deep connections between people and cultivate healing.
He believes play is also key to discovering our inherent gifts. Brown says, “Play can generate optimism, makes perseverance fun, gives our immune system a boost, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.”
He warns that lack of play can result in health problems. Play deprivation has been connected to depression, stress-related illnesses, crime and addictions.
Play Comes as Naturally as Breathing for Kids
The artist Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Lucia Capacchione is known for her discovery of the healing power of writing and drawing with our non-dominant hand.
She says, “For us to be fully human, the child within must be embraced and expressed. An active and healthy ‘inner child’ is one of the best preventions for burn-out and disease. It is the source of humour, play and rejuvenation.”
Art therapists know that expressing our feelings can help us feel better both physically and emotionally. The tools they use include journaling, painting, drawing, clay work and other art forms.
If you have seen the movie Big, you’ll be familiar with actor Tom Hanks stepping into the role of 11-year old Josh after he wishes to be in a grownup body. Hanks embodied his ‘inner child’ for that role and allowed himself to play on camera.
How to Rediscover Play
You can use your five senses to rediscover play. Your sixth sense, intuition, may also get a workout.
Ideas to Play with Your Ability to See
Go for a walk outdoors and identify how many different shades of green you see. You can also choose shades of red, blue, yellow, etc.
Get some paper, crayons, pastels or felt pens and draw a picture of a fun activity you enjoyed in childhood. Use your non-dominant hand. This helps eliminate any protest about not being able to draw.
Watch people board a plane, bus, bike or other form of transportation and make up a story about where they’re going.
Ideas to Play with Your Ability to Hear
Put on your favorite music and sing along, or see if you can conduct the musicians. Go for a walk in nature and identify the sounds around you. Visit a junk yard or thrift shop and make a drum set from what you find – then play a beat as if you are Ringo Starr.
Ideas to Play with Your Ability to Feel
Book a massage or pedicure, and relax and enjoy it. Take a class in weaving or pottery. Walk barefoot along a sandy beach. Jump in and out of the waves and feel for smooth pebbles you can pick up and toss in the water.
Ideas to Play with Your Ability to Smell
Visit a local garden in bloom and breathe in the scent. Follow your nose into a bakery and buy the dominant aroma. Go to a Farmers’ Market and smell the tomatoes, dill and garlic.
Ideas to Play with Your Ability to Taste
Walk into an ice cream shop and ask for samples before you buy. Close your eyes while a friend places flavorful foods on your tongue to test your ability to identify them. Create a new soup from foods you already have in your kitchen. Keep tasting it until it seems just right.
Resurrect Play in Retirement
Sometimes people struggle with retirement without the structure of a job, a familiar routine or a career identity. We’ve not been trained for endless open and unstructured days.
Recall some of the imaginative things you loved to do as a child when the last thing on your mind was clock-watching. Choose to re-engage in that activity.
Embrace midlife as a time for new adventures and delightful possibilities. Letting your inner child out to play is a great way to stay young.
Perhaps you can enlist your friends or grandchildren to participate in a Play Day that you co-create together.
If you are stuck for ideas, ask the children to take the lead. Children are naturally creative, imaginative and resourceful. They draw, dance, sing, invent, write and discover as they explore the new world they’ve been born into.
Adults often become obsessed with looking good and being in control. We feel threatened by experimentation that could lead to making a mistake or looking foolish.
Revisit the natural curiosity and creativity you once enjoyed. Your inner child is waiting inside, hoping you’ll ask her out to play. Be remembered for your joy and playfulness.
How often do you play? What were your favorite playtime activities as a child? How can you recapture them now? Please share your best playful experiences in the comments below.