M

Make Time For Play

by 26Health Staff

Not long ago, the world was overwhelmed by the phenomena of Pokémon Go. For those of you unfamiliar, Pokémon Go is a location-based phone game that invites users to collect digital creatures. At one point, it was commonplace to witness clusters of people walking around metropolitan areas and parks staring at their phones while playing Pokémon Go.

Soon, reports began to pour in about people attributing physical and mental health benefits to the game. This raises the question of whether the game designers are secret life coach geniuses or if these users are experiencing a placebo effect.

Socializing Around Play

Games like Pokémon Go keep adults and children alike engaged in the fundamental tasks of play. This simple task has encouraged people to socialize and open up to one another around a common interest. In many cases, it has caused them to interact more with other people than they normally would.

Everyone knows that play is important in childhood because that is how children process and make sense of their world. This begs the question, is play necessary in adulthood? In short, Yes!

Defining Play

Philosopher and author Bernard Suit describes play as “a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”

The online Oxford dictionary defines it as “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”

I believe Jill Vialet best describes how to identify it in her 2012 Ted Talk; “Play is like pornography. You know it when you see it.”

The Benefits of Play

We know what play is, technically speaking, but why should we, particularly as adults? What are the advantages?

1. Play can change how we engage in an experience and how easily we are able to engage with other people. The benefits as an adult include stress relief and release, increased creativity, feelings of well-being, problem-solving, and a sense of connection with others in the world around us. In terms of stress relief, play is fun and triggers our body to release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins encourage an overall sense of comfort and have also been known to temporarily relieve pain.

2. Play assists with developing and improving social skills. As adults, we continually refine verbal communication, body language, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork skills through play and playful communication. It also allows adults to break down barriers and improve relationships with others. There are many adults that utilize games such as, Words with Friends, Mario Run Ruzzle, Candy Crush, 2048, and Two Dots to maintain loose daily social contacts with friends.

3. Play can heal emotional wounds. As adults, playing together engages us in the same patterns of behavior that shape our brains as children. If an emotionally-insecure individual plays with a secure partner, for example, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions.

Go Out and Play

There is no right or wrong way to go about this. You can play on your own or with a pet, but for the greatest benefits, you should involve at least one other person. You can do puzzles, word games, trivia, card games, board games, or any other kind of game that encourages social engagement.

There are also games, such as Superbetter, which are designed to help achieve outcomes such as a reduction in depression or anxiety or weight loss. The game helps players gather a support system and creates small, measurable quests that ultimately guide you toward success in your mission.

However you play, the most important thing is to make sure you follow your joy.