MOBE | Get playful. It’s good for you!

Get playful. It’s good for you!

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.

What does play look like for grownups?

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?

How do you know when you’re playing?

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:

  • You aren’t focused on accomplishing a goal.
  • You aren’t delivering on a need—your own or someone else’s.
  • You’re noticing feelings of enjoyment.
  • You’re laughing—not required, but a sure sign of play.

What are the keys to a more playful life?

  1. Know your play type. There are four generally recognized approaches to play.3 Knowing your style (or styles) can help you find activities that free your spirit best.
    • Other-directed: You like playing with other people.
    • Light-hearted: You prefer to improvise and do whatever occurs to you in the moment.
    • Intellectual: Activities like wordplay and problem-solving give you sheer enjoyment.
    • Whimsical: You like seeking out the odd or unusual activities in everyday life. (Clowning, anyone?)
  2. Give yourself permission to play every day. Or even every hour. Play can be as simple as reaching for a yo-yo by your desk.
  3. Surround yourself with playful people. Your social circle is a sure way to keep life upbeat and fun.
  4. Get inspired by the playful pros. Children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews—if there are kids in your life, give yourself permission to go into their world as much as you can.

Jumpstart your playtime.

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:

  1. Grab someone’s hand and skip half a block.
  2. Read a funny article out loud.
  3. Host a game night—charades or trivia can be just as fun virtually as in person.
  4. Make cool patterns with some backyard rocks.
  5. Watch a spider spin her web.
  6. Toss a frisbee.
  7. Joke with a stranger in a checkout line.
  8. Make a shadow puppet.
  9. Keep a grownup coloring book and colored pencils close by.
  10. Crank up your favorite song and dance to it.
  11. Take a pause for a word puzzle.
  12. Ride your bike around town with no destination in mind.
  13. Dust off your roller skates.
  14. Knit a few rows.
  15. Fly a kite.
  16. Pick up an instrument you used to play.
  17. Doodle. (Stick figures are fine.)
  18. Work a jigsaw puzzle.
  19. Play a round of gin rummy, euchre, or crazy eights.
  20. Draw flowers on the sidewalk with chalk.
  21. Take up hula-hooping—it’s great exercise, too.

Your turn!

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.

To find out if you’re eligible for MOBE, check your status or call 844-841-9725. Ready to take the first step with a MOBE Guide? Schedule a call online or download the MOBE Health Guide app.

References:
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.