The Importance of Play
Play has been relegated in our society to a very obscure place where it has been tagged as ‘important but expendable’. There is always something more important, something more worthwhile and something more impending. Children running around helter-skelter in parks and gullys playing to their hearts content have been replaced by children who travel in chauffeur driven cars for their coaching classes and dance classes. Today’s children are experts in ‘playing’ on their computers and video games. They’re also experts in schedules. They know where they have to be after school - every day of the week.
And it’s not the playground.
People enjoy play, if and when they manage to get it. But our consumerist mentality pushes us to work, work and work and there’s always “real life” calling and interrupting the fun. Pure play has become more of a luxury nowadays. But when your kids can’t even play without checking their schedules first, you know there’s a serious problem.
So when did this happen? Centuries and centuries of humans entertained themselves by playing. Adults as well as children after spending the day taking care of basic needs, played. No quick stop at the grocery store, no un-accounted hours stuck in a traffic jam, no TV that lured you in with its captivating imagery. There was pure unadulterated leisure time and Play strengthened community bonds in addition to being fun. The ‘artificial’ stress in our modern lives brought about by our never ending desires (that new car, the new house, foreign college education for our children) requires a little endorphin boosting , unstructured, good old fashioned Play now more than ever!
Benefits of Play
- A New Zealand study showed that workers were 82% more productive following a vacation, and their sleep habits were better.
- Australian researchers suggested that frequent breaks for sedentary workers results in better weight control and improved triglyceride and blood glucose numbers.
- The New York Times recently covered a study showing that increasing leisure activities improves immune function faster than stress can suppress it.
It seems like the more you reduce stress, the more easily everything else falls into place – no more stress eating, better focus at work, nothing weighing on your mind before bed. Then there’s the fact that playing is simply fun and enjoyable.
But how should I do it?
For something as unstructured and spontaneous as Play there are no set rules. The only rule is – Anything Goes. As long as it makes you feel energetic, happy and rejuvenated and you are not dragging yourself to that playing field. It is important to discover your own brand of Play and it is there lying dormant in our genetics, only it’s smothered by contemporary adulthood.
We generally gravitate to something we enjoy or excel at. I fulfill my ‘weekly allotment’ of Play time by playing badminton every weekend. This is so much more fun and de stressing than any other activity I do in my whole week. Most of us are stuck inside for too long and the burst of joyous outdoor activity is a counterbalance to that; for those who get plenty of exercise throughout the course of a normal day, relaxing leisure time could be the answer.
So what are you waiting for? Incorporate play into your healthy lifestyle today!
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