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Play Is More Than Just Having Fun

Play Is More Than Just Having Fun

BY Michelle McQuaid

When was the last time you really played? You know that feeling you had as a kid when you joyously threw yourself into a new experience, truly let your imagination run wild, and had no real expectation of an outcome. We’re guessing, that like most adults, it’s probably been a while.

Yet Dr Stuart Brown, the founder of National Institute for Play, suggests you are built to play and built through play. He explains that researchers have found that playing energizes you, lifts you out of the mundane, eases your burdens, renews your optimism, and opens you up to new possibilities. It’s a catalyst for exploring new behaviors, thoughts, strategies, and ways of being. And it allows you to see things in a different way and stimulates your brains for learning, growth, and creativity.

Wondering how something as frivolous as play can achieve all of this? Find out why and how you can benefit from play in this TED Talk – no matter how old you are.

What Will You Learn?

  • [5:34] Play is done for its sake. It doesn’t have a particular purpose, If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.
  • [10:31] Our brains light up when we play, it effects the frontal lobe (the logical thinking, executive organisational part of our brain) and helps develop our contextual memory.
  • [13:07] The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression. Consider a life without play – no humor, no movies, no games or not fantasy.
  • [13:41] The basis of human trust is established through play signals. But as adults we can begin to lose those signals.
  • [17:20] You can tap into your play history to enrich your life. Through recollecting your earliest memories of play and job, identifying the emotions you felt and considering how that connects with your life now, you can enrich your life by prioritizing and paying attention to play. And we can use this to promote creativity and innovation in the corporate world.

What Can You Try?

  • Create your own play history – Spend time remembering what you did as a child that really got your excited and gave you joy. Reading books, climbing trees, playing sports. Try to remember in as much detail as possible. Capture your feelings and think about how you might be able to recreate these moments now in your work and in your life. Try not to be judgmental or skeptical. Use these questions to guide you:  When have you felt free to be and do as you choose? Is this part of your life now? If not why not? How and why did some forms of play disappear from your repertoire?
  • Give yourself permission to be playful. Every day find a way to play. It could be spending time with your pets, your children, or sharing a joke with someone. It could be finding small moments of creative play – buy yourself some Lego, discover an online game you love, undertake a new challenge just for the fun of it with friends. It could be reminding yourself at work that one of the best ways to learn and innovate is to play and start making time to experiment, to pull ideas apart, to get creative when it comes to problem-solving.
  • Hangout with playful people – Look for others who are naturally playful make it a priority to spend time with them. Find colleagues at work who value play and look for ways to work on things together or just make time to catch up and be playful about work experiences so you can keep them in perspective.  Look for family and friends who take a playful lens to life and savor your time with them.

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