‘The Importance of Being Playful’
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 16:10
Last Saturday night seemed like a perfect prelude to Halloween. The distinctly angry wind howled decisively, pushing leaves off their branches, biting us with the cold, and sending us to take refuge within the warmth of blankets and hoodies.
In juxtaposition to the ominous weather, three of my clients and I had an amazingly fun and nostalgic night decorating our treatment facility for Halloween. We pressed Halloween cookie cutters into foam shapes of creepy, fun bats, pumpkins and skulls.
Laughter punctuated our decorating. We left scarcely a corner unturned from the touch of spooky and decidedly tacky decorations. For my clients, it was a distraction from dealing with addiction, homelessness and pure boredom. For me, it was a fun bonding experience.
It made me yearn for more times like this, for more freeing moments of play and laughter. A few weeks ago, I wrote about walking the tightrope of adulthood and how difficult the transition from adolescence to adulthood can be.
Today I am going to focus on taking a cue from kids and making time play in our lives! I am talking all out free, spontaneous dork-tastic stuff! Some ideas: board games, rolling in the leaves and carving pumpkins!
This is something that I love, but admittedly I do not make much time for myself to just play and do my hobbies. There is not much time left after a full-time job, full course load, writing and keeping up with the other responsibilities of being an adult. I know it’s busy when doing dishes, vacuuming and laundry seems like a vacation. Playing does not seem to come high on my list but it should!
Research even supports play as being positive for our health, happiness, intelligence, creativity and relationships. Influential developmental human psychologist Erik Erikson even encouraged adults to continue incorporating play into their lives.
Cities across the country are finally incorporating play for adults into the hustle and bustle. Specifically, New York City recently built its first adult playground! According to the New York Times, the first playground was built in the Bronx and plans to build two dozen more across the five boroughs. The goal of adult playgrounds is to encourage exercise and make exercise accessible for everyone. Washington DC even hosted “Adult Recess” events.
These events are part of a new “Play Movement” that unites professors, therapists and human resource specialists. This effort encourages playfulness as essential to maintaining mental and physical health. One play scholar Brian Sutton-Smith frankly wrote, “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.”
Another scholar on the forefront of the “Play Movement,” named Gwen Gordon, is producing forthcoming documentary called “Seriously! The Future Depends on Play.” Gordon hopes to show how vital play is to nurturing communities around the world. Gordon wrote that play “simply goes with the grain of the universe.”
That sounds nice and fluffy, but I admit I was a bit skeptical (big surprise, I know). I thought the whole “play” seemed a bit gimmicky at first. Playfulness is not a hoax. There is a bevy of scholarly articles and academic journals that support the notion of play. It is refreshing to see research and a movement towards a holistic, preventative approach to health instead of the tired old medication routine.
I do not think there needs to be thousands of dollars spent to incorporate play into adult’s lives. For me, it’s as cheap and simple as a soccer ball, a playground, a thrift store board game or a tickling match. No matter how many papers are stacking up on my desk, I realize I must make time for playing and enjoying the spontaneous moments life provides.
Tessa is a senior majoring in english.