As we grow up, we are often admonished to act like an adult and leave childish things behind. This primarily seems to be aimed at playing around, as these admonishments are most often heard when goofing off or doing something like playing video games or building a scale model of some kind. It seems that you can’t ever throw a ball to a friend without being told how childish you are.
This leads to people almost leading double lives, as they try to hide the stuff they do in their spare time; stuff that we all would enjoy but end up doing in secret because we’re afraid people will make fun of us should they ever find out.
Do we really need to be so willing to throw out the concept of play? Should we be so worried about appearing adult? It turns out that there is scientific proof that play for adults works the same way as it does for kids.
It makes it easier to learn and create new things and it challenges us in novel and different ways. If that weren’t enough reason, it also seems to relieve stress and can help with emotional recovery. Upon second glance, it seems there’s plenty of reason to play at whatever age because its effects are nothing but beneficial.
Changing The Rules
The key seems to be that no matter the setting in which the activity takes place, it removes us from where we are and almost magically transports us to another place where none of life’s daily rules matter.
Whether you’re throwing a bouncing ball around the office or playing a game or charades at home, you are in a way not really there and can relax; it’s really not unlike going on vacation, and just like vacation, too much is never a bad thing.
Playing is a great way to manage stress and foster teamwork in the workplace. By suspending the normal rules, you can have people interact in unusual ways and find out things about each other they wouldn’t have otherwise. Have them work through a problem they haven’t ever seen before, or work together in novel ways to solve an old problem.
At the same time, your team is relaxing together and gaining a sense of who they are outside of work. There’s nothing quite like realizing that one quiet guy is so quiet because he’s up late practicing with his band or that your boss is always so cranky because her son is always sick. These kinds of connections are always best made in a relaxed setting and playing games is perfect for that.
As it does for the workplace, so play does to in the personal sphere. You can discover all kinds of things you never knew about your friends and family during a game of Monopoly or while kicking a ball around.
This fosters even stronger ties than you already have and will be a bonding experience you can look back on. Worst-case scenario it’s something different from the Sunday family dinner where your parents chew you out for not being married/having kids yet.
Playing alone is also important. You don’t always need to be in a stressful environment to relax and there’s never a bad time to train your brain or work out some emotional issue. It can be as simple as playing a hand of Patience or as involved as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, it doesn’t matter.
The most important thing is that you unwind and let your brain roam free in a place where the normal rules don’t apply; upon its return, it will be able to handle the normal world with vigor once again.