Life as a grownup can get pretty serious: work, bills, family obligations, the general stress (and sometimes monotony) of our day-to-day routines. Is it any wonder we have moments of fatigue, frustration, or boredom with life?
The problem is we’ve forgotten how to play. Psychologists have a fancier way of saying it: Pleasure-seeking behavior drops off in young adulthood.1 And that’s not healthy. We are missing out on a powerful way to de-stress, unplug, reenergize, and reset.
We also miss out on one of the coolest things about being human. Our big brains and their ability to play can open up the kind of thinking that leads us to write novels, compose songs, design software, or create medical breakthroughs.2
In other words, play is anything but frivolous—it stimulates creative thinking.
Whether you’re lying in the grass seeing shapes in the clouds or starting a conversation with your dog, no one’s paying you to get a little silly. And you won’t see activities like this on your to-do list. But doing something just for fun is critical for healthier, stress-free living.
Starting with your “play history” can help.3 Think about what your favorite ways to play were when you were a child, then consider how you could modify those activities now. Maybe you loved climbing trees. Could you try indoor rock climbing? Maybe Play-Doh was your thing. How about a pottery class or making bread from scratch?
When you’re so focused on being productive, you can lose track of sheer joy. Here are a few clues that you’re in the play zone:
If it’s been a while since you did something just for the sheer enjoyment of it, you might need some brainstorming to get started. Here are 20 playful ideas:
Add five things to this list that sound like fun to you. Your MOBE Guide is sure to have some ideas to share, too. Try at least one of them in the coming week. Notice the results. Repeat the fun.
1. “The Importance of Play for Adults,” Margarita Tartakovsky, PsychCentral, https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-importance-of-play-for-adults#1.
2. Julie Scharper, “Lighten Up—According to Science it’s Good for You,” Johns Hopkins Magazine, Summer 2016, https://hub.jhu.edu/magazine/2016/summer/neuroscience-of-fun/.
3. Kristin Wong, “How to Add More Play to Your Grown-Up Life, Even Now,” New York Times, August 14, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/smarter-living/adults-play-work-life-balance.html.