What is Play?
When asked what do you do to play, many of us feel dumbfounded. What is play? Do I play? How can I learn to play more?
The stress of the past couple of years has made many of us reflect on what we truly want out of life. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how I need to set aside time for more play. I want to enjoy whatever time I have left on this earth. With that in mind, let’s explore what play actually is so that we can intentionally do more of it.
So, what is play?
Play is a Mindset: More than anything, play is a mindset. At its essence, it is having a playful approach to life. When we are driven by fear or stress, play is not an option…and then when we try to incorporate play, we find that we cannot enjoy it. In our minds, everything must have an outcome, and so even activities meant for play become work and cannot be enjoyed. If play is a way you approach life, the result of this mindset makes life more joyful.
Play is an Activity: Play is having fun and doing something that you want to do—you are not being made to do it. It can be daydreaming, painting, people watching, swimming in the ocean, or cooking classes. You can learn something or not. There does not have to be an outcome or product. The essence of play is pleasure. If you are wondering what play is for you, pause and ask yourself, “What do I love doing (or want to do), but rarely make time for?”
Play Brings about Flow: Positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow.” Flow happens when you play. Flow is being in the zone, enjoying something so immensely that you lose track of time. You are not constantly checking your watch. You are not checking things off your to-do list. You are in the moment, immersed completely, enjoying yourself.
Play Encourages Experimentation: When kids play, they naturally experiment with things.Their mind is curious and open to new experiences. What does it feel like to get stuck in mud? How do I like playing this game? What happens when I combine these two colors? Kids are open-minded to checking out new things. If you want to play more, begin by picking up some toys and experimenting with them. See what happens.
Play can be Goofing Off: Playing doesn’t have to be a specific hobby or task. Play can be what I like to call “goofing off.” I play a lot in my greenhouse by just meandering around. I lose track of time and enjoy myself immensely as I experiment with different plants.
TO KNOW IF YOU ARE PLAYING OR NOT, OBSERVE THE SITUATION AND ASK:
Am I having fun?
Does this bring me joy?
Does this make me feel like a kid again? Do I lose track of time?
Do I want to do it again?
Now, get to playing my friends!
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