Insights: Let’s Play

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As we go through this quarantine, I am seeing more people slowing down and connecting more, even if it is through zoom or facetime.

Couples are talking and playing games together; they have not done something like this for 20 years. Children are talking more to their parents and watching movies together. Families are cooking together and finding that simple things matter more.

If anything good can come out of this time, it is that we have learned to slow down and connect more to the people who matter in our lives.

People are also helping each other more by sharing what they have or donating to help out others who are struggling during this time.

My wish is for this to also be a time we can connect more with ourselves. I was reading a book called “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle, who talks about how we become tamed by societies messages by the age of 10.

Think of the photos we have that show us just being playful—there is no posing or shyness. Instead we just show however we are feeling in the moment. Obviously, we cannot live our lives this way as we grow up. However, what happens is we start to give up pieces of ourselves to fit in, to belong, to live up to what is expected of us by family, friends and society.

Then what happens? We start to learn that we need to look a certain way, act a certain way. We start to give up what we truly are to what we think we should be. We somehow forget how to play and instead we learn more that life is about being pretty, successful, competitive.

Is this really our purpose in life?

I remember reading an article about how most animals play; it is an important part of life. Peer to peer play builds social, cognitive and motor skills along with learning emotional regulation, creates more empathy and emotional flexibility.

Our brain develops more cohesive connections between different parts. Lack of play in childhood shows a decrease in mental health to the point of possible psychiatric disturbances.

Play also increases our creativity, imagination and sense of well-being. It also decreases our likelihood of depression and anxiety. Play takes us into the part of the brain where we forget time and just enjoying what is happening in the moment. This then gets imprinted in our brain as something we can revisit and share with others.

Play can take on so many different forms, yet they all have something in common. Play means we are not competing seriously, we are not comparing ourselves, we do not hold the outcome as a sign of our own success. For example, playing tennis or playing a musical instrument can be play as long as the goal is to just experience it.

With the quarantine, play for me is gardening without it being a task, biking without it being about distance, talking to friends without it being about having a purpose.

Oh, then the baking, I wish I could say without the eating! However, that would not be true. The eating has been much fun!  Might need to stop sometime soon, but it still has been fun. I have made recipes that I have not cooked since I was a child.

From the book “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, she says “Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”

So really play is a very serious topic and this is a great time to find new ways to play.  While we are under the stress of this time of quarantine and life is messy, let’s make the most of it by connecting with others, being grateful for what we have, and play. And play like you are untamed.

As author Glennon Doyle wrote, “If you feel something calling you to dance or write or paint or sing, please refuse to worry about whether you’re good enough. Just do it. Be generous. Offer a gift to the world that no one else can offer: yourself.”


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