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Reduce Stress by Playing More!

By Jacob Devaney on Friday July 10th, 2015

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Playing isn't just for kids!

Take a hint from children about the secret to happiness

Imagine your employer mandating that you  go out and jump on a trampoline, or spend 45 minutes at the company playground each day? It’s a simple equation, yet as we age many of us forget the most inherent wisdom we had as children. Playing is not only fun, but it is also healthy for the body and increases brain function. Incorporating play into our work lives will increase productivity, and reduce stress.

There are many articles that highlight the brain research regarding play. Many of them focus on the importance of encouraging play for children. There are even wonderful videos like Funny Bone Logic that help families play together to strengthen emotional bonding and coherence.

“When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.” – NPR EdScientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain

Time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground“Time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground”

However, it isn’t kids who need to remember the power of play. It’s us adults who need to remember the power of play! The Executive Function is an umbrella term for the management (regulation, control) of cognitive processes, including, reasoning, task, and problem solving planning and execution. This is the part of the brain that is most enhanced by play.

“The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain, and without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed.”
– Sergio Pellis, University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada (SourceScientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain)

Play-therapy

Business owners are starting to recognize that a cohesive work-environment is dependent on good social skills, cooperation, reduced stress, and the happiness of employees. These traits are all enhanced by playing. Some corporate retreats also include play-therapy to assist colleagues in “taking it light” while on the job.

“If happiness in the workplace brings increased returns to productivity, then human resource departments, business managers and the architects of promotion policies will want to consider the implications.
– Jamie Doward, Happy people really do work harder

Unstructured, collaborative imagination in action can be essential for optimal mental and physical health“Unstructured, collaborative imagination in action can be essential for optimal mental and physical health”

The Association for Play Therapy suggests that unstructured, collaborative imagination in action can be essential for optimal mental and physical health and if you are having a hard time you may want to visit a play-therapist. My favorite play-therapists are my nephews, who are nine and eleven years old. While I’m with them anything and everything can become a game. A rock, a stick, a leaf can be the needed toys to keep us occupied for hours.

Moving the body loosens the mind. We crave more than running on a treadmill. I like putting on silly music with friends and letting wordless drama unfold. Crank up some tunes, role play interactions, gestures and responses, or just dance freely and you will change the way you interact with the people you love. Climb a tree, throw sticks into a creek to watch them float away, or build a faerie-house out of twigs and leaves. No matter how you are feeling before you start, I’m sure you will feel better when you finish.

Collaboration and improvisation

A great imagination game is the art of making up stories for kids. It’s quite simple, just have the child pick any three things they can think of. Perhaps a grasshopper, a rainbow, and a butterfly… Ask them where these things are, and they will magically tell you. Once you have 3 characters and a place somehow your brain will be able to start telling the story and you will be amazed at the minds ability to spontaneously create. This is collaboration and improvisation at it’s finest and before long you will get better at it and forget about the stressful daily chores that need your attention. If you don’t overindulge, you will emerge with a fresh mood and mind to happily check your real-world responsibilities off the list.

When and where do you feel the natural urge to play? How can you bring that into your daily life more? What are the ways that playing can be incorporated into your daily life, your work?

Asking these questions is the first step in bringing the universal urge of playing back into your life. Ask if everyone would be okay to throw an invisible ball around for a few minutes before your next company board meeting. Even if you receive resistance, I promise that your silly request will lighten the air and win you a few friends!

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

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Jacob Devaney

Founder and director of Culture Collective, creative activist, musician, and producer.

 

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