It seems sad to me that adults tend to stop playing, instead adopting a serious approach to life. Yes life can be very stressful, but playing can be a great way to reduce stress, have fun and experience joy. It can also provide you with a flow experience, which is where you are so absorbed in an activity that everything else is forgotten. This is a great way to increase happiness in your life.
Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology regards playfulness as a key personal strength. Also, play can provide us with opportunities to develop curiosity, persistence and creativity, all of which are important strengths. It can also give hope as it allows us to acknowledge that life is not all bad, all the time.
Children play as part of their emotional and cognitive development. As adults, it can be an opportunity to fine tune the skills we developed as children. Just because we are adults does not mean we are done learning and experiencing. In Manchester in the UK a playground has recently opened designed for people over 70. It provides opportunities for exercise as well as allowing people to socialise, have fun and of course play.
The very idea of playing may lead you to feelings of guilt where you believe there are more important things to be done. Or you believe that you simply cannot play, as though there is some law that says play is just for children, or people will judge you. Remember it's about getting a good balance in life. Everyone needs time off, even you. Also, if you are enjoying yourself, who cares what the miserables think?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Recall the things you used to do as a child which you really enjoyed. Then do them again.
Play with your children or your pets, if you have them. Of course you don't need children to have an excuse to play. Just do it. Wander around a toyshop and buy what takes your fancy. At least as an adult you don't have to ask permission!
Do something for the sheer fun of it.
Try not to worry about who wins and loses, try to enjoy the experience instead. For some this may be easier said than done, but remember it's about having fun and reducing stress, not increasing it.
Copyright Julia Barnard 2008
Julia Barnard is a professional counsellor living in Adelaide, Australia. She provides an online counselling service through her website http://www.makethechange.com.au , which offers counselling at a time and place that suits you. Julia also publishes a quarterly ezine and writes articles for the website aimed at enhancing wellbeing and promoting good mental health.