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Play Brings Joy, Health, and Success

Wasting time can improve your health, relationships, and professional life.


With the New Year starting, social media feeds are full of inspiration to help you crush your goals: drop twenty pounds while cooking gourmet meals, meditating every morning, and checking off our entire to-do list. 


Since 80 percent of resolutions that people make in for the new year fail making them at all seems like a giant waste of time. Schedule time to play instead. 


As adults, we neglect time to recharge our souls. When you watch a child play, you see mindfulness personified. They aren’t worried about filing their taxes, what they’re making for dinner, or how to squeeze that thirty-minute workout in an already packed schedule. They focus only on filling themselves with joy. Doesn’t that sound more fun than a low-carb diet and spreadsheets? 


Dr. Stuart Brown, a play researcher and founder of the National Institute of Play, said in a 2008 TED Talk that play is integral to being human and, “If it’s purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.”


Think back to when you were a child and focus on the types of play that brought you the most joy; those same activities will light you up today. Some people are drawn to sports or dance, while for others, crafting a story is the epitome of enjoyment. 


Play reduces stress and boosts your health

Research shows that chronic stress, the sort that keeps us up at night or churns in our stomachs and makes us neglect the salad we packed for lunch, can negatively impact our immune function, cardiovascular health, hormone levels, and digestive system. In addition to physical health problems, depression and anxiety often stem from chronic stress.  


Play, either solo or social,  is the anecdote to chronic stress. When you enjoy an activity, your body releases endorphins- the same chemicals that runners call the post-exercise high. These chemicals boost brain function and increase your sense of well-being. 


Play improves your inter-personal relationships

There are certain types of play that directly impact the way you interact with other people. 

Attunement play, which The National Institute of Play describes as eye contact and conversation between a mother and infant, fosters emotional bonding. Social play, such as board games, sports, and partnered dancing, improves your ability to connect and empathize with other people and even help you overcome shyness in social situations. 


Incorporating play into your friendships, long term relationships, or even business associations can boosts connectivity. Strong connections foster a sense of belonging, resulting in improved emotional wellbeing, enhanced trust, and more stable bonds. 


Play boosts your business

Improving business relationships through playfulness can positively impact the success of your business, and stimulate cognitive function to enhance innovation. 


If you work for yourself, building play breaks into your day can help your brain stay sharp and innovative, which is essential for any entrepreneur. Stand up from your desk for an hourly dance party, or keep some brain teaser puzzles handy. The type of play isn’t as important as the level of enjoyment you get from it. 


If you want to create engaging meetings that help employees attend actively instead of checking the clock and their Facebook feed, a playful environment is vital. In addition to being more interesting, playful work environments can enhance group coherence by improving trust. 

Play is essential

This year, focus your efforts on finding opportunities to waste time. It’s easy to get caught up in the act of being busy, especially in a society where people wear the word busy like a badge of honor. 


Set an hourly reminder on your phone and breaking away from work to play for five minutes. Turn on the music and have a dance party in your kitchen before making dinner or doing the dishes. Write the time for a weekly basketball game or crafting session in your week. 

The key is to treat play as essential to your functioning as a human being because science tells us that it is. Play improves our health, relationships, and business, so, you’re sure to crush those goals without the need for a resolution.


Maria Chapman is a writer, literacy education expert, chronic illness warrior, and parent of five.


Maria Chapman

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