Have you ever wondered why we tend to associate play with children? Adults appear to be very comfortable forgoing play, or at least only participating occasionally and leaving the “playtime” for the kids. The truth is, play is extremely important for all ages and numerous studies have correlated positive effects with play in adulthood.
A few years ago I took a remarkable training on Play Throughout the Lifespan with world renowned Neuropsychiatrist, Dan Siegal, MD. I was fascinated with the research associated with people who play and how this practice drastically improves health, relationships and overall quality of life. In my personal life, I have always valued the idea of play but I had a hard time integrating it realistically. My husband and I are entrepreneurs, which means time is always limited. After honestly acknowledging that we need space from our businesses in order to stay balanced, we started to take play seriously. Now we try to incorporate play into our lives on a weekly basis. Ironically, play helps us to be more productive in business because we get creative space to process ideas. Best of all, it strengthens our marriage. This is because play in adulthood helps couples experience other forms of emotional intimacy (Tartakovsky, 2012). There is something incredible about connecting with your playful side that keeps people young and vibrant.
First Things First noted several additional benefits of play in adulthood, including:
“Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these play byproducts are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.
Play also enhances relationships. The National Institute for Play cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.
Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humor, the enjoyment of novelty, the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies, the enjoyment of mutual storytelling and the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies.
Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and a deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy ” (2016).
Are you convinced yet? If you have not adopted play as a practice to incorporate into your week, you should really consider it!
Tangible Ways You Can Incorporate Play in Adulthood:
1. Find a sport or hobby you can engage in. For us, this is golf. My husband played as a collegiate athlete and after years of solely admiring the game, I started to pick it up for pure recreation. Golf is something that brings us together. We enjoy playing together, walking the course on summer evenings, cheering each other on and laughing about the joy and the misery of the game. Examples to try: Rock climbing, indoor soccer, cooking, book clubs, hiking, photography, beer brewing, fantasy sports, bowling, DIY projects and geocaching.
2. Get comfortable with being vulnerable. Do you and your partner joke together? Sing together? Dance together? Well you should! These aspects lighten up the weeks by simply making time to pause and connect. These playful activities do a number on bringing people together. Examples to try: Zumba, choir, instrument classes, ballroom dance, learning a language or going to comedy shows.
3. Play board games. You are never too old to engage in a good old fashioned board game. We personally love Settlers of Catan, Apples to Apples, Ticket to Ride and Monopoly. Invite friends over and have at it!
4. Incorporate artwork into your life. There is a reason adult coloring books were among the top two best selling books on amazon…because they are worth it! Coloring and other forms of art help connect us to our (sometimes dormant) imaginations and assist with processing long days by meditating upon the art. Examples to try: Coloring, pottery, building model designs, painting, sewing, pencil work, sculpting with clay or play-doh.
What ways do you add a level of play to your weekly routine with your partner? Please share below!
Keller, Jared. “The Psychological Case for Adult Play Time.” Pacific Standard. N.p., 09 Apr. 2015. Web. 20 June 2017.
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). The Importance of Play for Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/11/15/the-importance-of-play-for-adults/
“Related Media.” The Importance of Play for Adults. First Things First, 21 June 2016. Web. 20 June 2017.