When play emerged as one of the goalposts for wholehearted living in Brené Brown’s research, she was so disconnected from play that she didn’t even recognise it as a thing.
When I read The Gifts of Imperfection and went on to do Brené’s e-course, I can remember how much that resonated with me.
There are so many things that can get in the way of play for us as adults – responsibility, chores, work, earning, needing to feel productive, pride, what other people think …
So, what gets in the way of play for you?
Are those barriers external or internal? Are they real barriers to play or just barriers we tell ourselves we have? Is it that you can’t spend time playing because you’ve chores to do? Because you need to work or to earn money? Or is the lack of time to play just something we just tell ourselves? After all, there are always more chores to do!
However, the need to be productive is just conditioned behaviour – it’s just not who we are. We get to choose how to measure our success, whether that’s by a clean house, a 70-hour work week, or (and this may feel a little novel) by the amount of time we spend in play each day or each week.
Accepting then that our barriers to play are sometimes internal – that is to say, more to do with mindset than external circumstances – then giving yourself permission to play may help.
Here’s the permission I give myself …
What do you need to give yourself permission for?
“Play” could include skating, dancing, wild swimming, singing, creating, walking, building Lego, going down slides, going up slides, paddling, playing games, roller coasters and being silly: all closely linked with how we enjoyed to play as a child. Think about what you loved to do when you were little! Think about it – both kids and animals are so much better at play then us, so what can we learn from them?
When I looked at my play list I noticed it was all about connection:
- Connection to my physical self
- Connection to my creative self
- Connection to nature
- Connection to others
All of these take me out of my head. This is perhaps why Dr Stuart Brown says that “play is the opposite of depression”, because without play we’re disconnected from our bodies, our feelings, and from nature – especially our innate nature.
There are links between play and rest, learning, problem solving, connection to others, growth … and, of course, we don’t need to make our play productive! Just play for the sake of it – for the pure, unadulterated joy of playing!
What benefits do you think more play would bring to your life?
Having explored play, I’ve come to realise that outgoings are lower, my “need” to work is less, and I recognise the essential value of play. Don’t get me wrong – the productivity gremlin still regularly raises its head, but it doesn’t shout anywhere near as loudly as it used to!
Here’s what came up for me when I tried to incorporate more play into my life:
EGO MIND: 20 MINUTES A DAY? AS IF I’VE GOT TIME TO COMMIT 20 MINUTES A DAY!
Kind voice: Hey, woah, what’s that all about? Take a breath!
EGO MIND: I ALREADY FEEL OVERWHELMED AND THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME TO EVEN WALK THE DOG THIS WEEK! AS IF I’VE GOT THE ENERGY AND TIME TO COMMIT TO YET ANOTHER THING EVERY DAY!!
Kind voice: No one’s making you do anything. Breathe! It’s an invitation to play that’s all. An invitation.
EGO MIND: I’D LOVE TO EFFIN PLAY. I DON’T WANT TO BE LEFT OUT FROM THE FUN!
Kind voice: Ok, well that’s good to know. Take another breath. You are not a failure. Your life will never be comparable to anyone else because it’s yours
EGO MIND: Err … I can’t find anything annoying to say back to you. WHO ARE YOU ANYWAY?
Kind voice: I’m your wiser inner child. I’m here ready to play whenever you’re ready!
EGO MIND/PETULANT CHILD: I’M TOO WRAPPED UP WORRYING ABOUT THE OTHER STUFF I HAVE TO PRIORITISE
Kind voice: We know. It’s ok. And remember, you get to choose what to prioritise and when.
EGO MIND: I’m jealous really. And annoyed at myself that I’m choosing this and not that. Humph. It’s all my fault then.
Kind voice: Its always within us you ninny, never about anyone else. I love you
EGO MIND: WHATEVS
Kind voice: I still love you
I did eventually give myself permission to knock off early and play. I hope that sharing this experience helps soothe your worries – it’s hilarious what our minds can do, and where they can go all in the space of 10 minutes!
So, if play was the only thing on your agenda for tomorrow, what would you allow yourself to do?
THIS POST FIRST APPEARED ON BRAVESOULS AND IS REPRODUCED HERE WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF JENNIFER POTTER
If you want to know more about how playing can help your mental health, Stress in the City by Enoch Li is out now!
And if you want to hear more from Jennifer, her book, Stronger. Braver. Wiser. is out soon! Preorder it here. Here’s a sneak preview…
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