Photo Credit: Katrina Berban, Unsplash
“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce
Recently, I attended a conference where the speaker asked participants: “Are you fun to live with?” She then explained that if you don’t value the importance of play and having fun in your life, you will most likely not be fun to live with. That sure got my attention!
Western society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, a waste of time or even a guilty indulgence. As adults, we’re supposed to be serious. And with responsibilities piling on endlessly, we may think there’s simply no time to play.
Yet, play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for kids.
In English, the word “play” represents the opposite of “work.” But this definition is misleading. As psychiatrist Brian Sutton-Smith puts it: “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” Dr. Smith began studying the role of play in brain development after discovering the impact of no play on the brain development of homicidal young men. He found that play of any kind is essential to brain development.
Play is not just essential for kids; it is an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your partner, friends, co-workers, children and pets fuels your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.
Simply put, play brings joy.
Adult play is a time to forget about responsibilities and get social in an unstructured, creative way. When you play, you focus on an experience, not on accomplishing a goal. There need be no purpose to the activity beyond having fun and enjoying yourself. Play could be goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee with your kids, playing fetch with a dog or going for a bike ride.
By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap oodles of health benefits. Here are just a few:
Play refreshes you. When you take a break from mentally challenging tasks to play for a few minutes, you release built-up tension and allow your brain circuitry to rebalance. These brief diversions refresh your mind and body, renew your focus and prevent burnout. It can also help you to view problems in new ways, so you can find optimal solutions.
Play relieves stress. Play is fun and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even relieve pain.
Play improves brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can improve brain function and help prevent memory problems. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also release stress and ward off depression.
It keeps you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing boosts your energy and vitality and can even improve your resistance to disease.
Play is good for your heart. Physical play is a great way to trick yourself into becoming more active—a habit that benefits your heart. Just walking the dog burns 230 calories per hour, and a leisurely bike ride burns over 420.
Play stimulates your mind and boosts creativity. You learn a new task better when it’s fun and you are in a relaxed and playful mood. Play also stimulates your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve better.
It helps heal emotional wounds. Studies have shown that when an emotionally upset individual plays with a partner who feels more stable, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive awareness and action.
Play improves relationships and connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun fosters empathy, compassion, trust and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
It develops and improves social skills. During childhood play, kids learn about verbal communication, body language, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork. As adults, we continue to refine these skills through play and playful communication.
Play improves interpersonal cooperation. Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, we learn how to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. We can also use play to break down barriers and improve relationships with others.
Still thinking that you are too busy to play? Given all these benefits, perhaps it is time to decide that you are too busy NOT to play! Your body, mind and emotions need the benefits of play.
Schedule your play activities like any other commitment. It is that important. Perhaps now would be a good time to schedule that much needed vacation. You’ll be better off for having played more!
About the author
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.
Photo Credit: Mike Erskine, Unsplash
Sometimes when I garden, I think of all the life lessons gardening has taught me and my heart overflows with joy. Perhaps I should write one of those books titled: “Everything I need to know about life, I learned in my garden!”
Jokes aside, gardening for me is a sacred conversation with all of life. It intimately connects me with the earth, nature, creatures of all shapes and sizes, and life beyond. It brings me back to my happy space as a co-creator and nurturer.
The act of gardening brings us fully present to ourselves, each moment, and the Presence of the Creator permeating everything around us. The rich diversity of the microcosm we call gardening, is simply a sliver of the abundant cosmos we get to live in and explore. And as we seek to establish balance and participation in a garden, we set in motion a core of harmony that ripples out to bless all sentient life with beauty, sustenance, and vitality.
Gardening gathers us home to Mother Nature and all the lessons she has to share with us. As we tend the diverse aspects of a garden, we also commune with Mother Nature, and in turn she blesses us with nutritious bounty and beauty.
As in all of life, gardens enjoy seasons of growth like spring and loss like fall; there are times of giving as the blooms of summer, and seasons of rest as the seed beneath the snow. All the seasons are ours to experience.
How we experience each changing season, is up to each of us: we alone choose our responses to life, our ability to begin again and grow even after we’ve been pruned back hard.
Gardens are not just happenings. They’re expressions of the gardener’s presence. The more wonderful the garden, the more skilled the gardener. Together, the symbiotic relationship of garden and gardener offers us clear reminders of the principles we need to tend through the seasons of life.
As seasons revolve, periods of death and loss are followed by the rebirth of new life and vitality. Each plant grows, blooms and bears fruit, and then declines as a reminder of the sacred cycle of life and death. When the season of bounty is done, spent plants are recycled by composting them, and room is created for new shoots to emerge from the bountiful earth.
Like all of creation, gardening starts with a vision. It also requires effort and persistence to translate the vision into reality. Choices need to be made: our inner garden grows best when we plant seeds of faith, hope, love, compassion, forgiveness and trust. And then, we need to faithfully tend those seeds as they grow into their full potential.
To effectively cultivate our inner garden, we must care deeply for this life that’s ours and nurture it. We need to identify and remove weeds from our lives so they will not choke out the beauty of the life we’re cultivating. Likewise, we need to differentiate between what’s good and what’s unnecessary, so we can prune back behaviors and actions that interfere with our inner growth and harmony. Pruning, though painful, creates space for what we wish to bring forth.
Gardens are protected by healthy boundaries. When boundaries are defined, the tender plants are protected from predators while beneficial insects are invited to perform their service of pollination.
Gardening is inherently responsive and proactive. It teaches us the importance of spotting pesky invaders or the start of disease right away. Ignoring a few warning signs today can quickly escalate to a disastrous outcome or total crop loss. We need to remain vigilant, eliminate negative thoughts and maintain good emotional hygiene for a balanced life.
And when harm has been done, gardening also teaches us to forgive trespassers – both the intruders who hurt and damage what’s been painstakingly cultivated, and forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes or fail to live up to our own ideals.
Finally, gardening teaches us about the value of community. Plants are drawn to companions that comprise a supportive community. Tomatoes grow well alongside basil or peppers, but don’t thrive next to cabbage or broccoli. This does not make either plant type bad; it merely indicates a harmonic symbiosis which, when honored, results in more optimal outcomes. Likewise, we need the enrichment and support of a harmonious community to reach our full potential.
There’s no garden as prolific as the one that love grew, whether in nature or in our hearts. Love is at the core of all abundance, goodness and bounty. Author Daphne Rose Kingma expressed it this way:
“For it is in loving, as well as in being loved, that we become most truly ourselves. No matter what we do, say, accomplish, or become, it is our capacity to love that ultimately defines us. In the end, nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the way we have loved one another.”
Even though the world is full of suffering, it’s also full of empowerment and opportunity. When we stop to reflect on the inner garden we’re tending – our inner being – we see this.
And so, we tend the verdant garden of our hearts so we can transition from fear to faith; from lack to abundance, and from defensiveness to blessing. It takes courage to step away from a busy schedule and to sit, tending our heart and soul. Yet all masters knew how important that is: even Gandhi took one day a week to sit in silence, tending the garden of his heart so he could be the change he sought in the world.
It is in quietude and contemplation that we recognize the stillness of the Creator Presence and our connection to all. That awareness can foster in us compassion for the woundedness of the world, so we commit to the awakening and care of our world.
Centuries ago, the Buddha taught: “To live in joy and love even among those who hate; to live in joy and health, even among the afflicted; to live in joy and peace, even among the troubled; quiet your mind and tend the heart, and free yourself from fears and confusion and attachment, and know the sweet joy of living in the Way.”
What is your bountiful gift to the world that only you can bring? Listen closely, push beyond discomfort to cultivate your seeds of potential, and grow them with love and joy!
About The Author:
©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit http://adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.