Generally, when we’re under stress, we do exactly the wrong things. We worry, drown our sorrows, lash out at people and stop looking after ourselves properly. And even though this doesn’t make any logical sense, that doesn’t stop it being a fairly predictable quirk of human nature.
In difficult times, a great use of your energy and attention is play and playfulness. Play can be a distraction and help to unwind tension, it’s often physical, which is a benefit in itself and a light-hearted approach helps you to see different perspectives.
A MANIFESTO FOR PLAY
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Ruth Gordon
Play is how we solve problems, try out new ideas, test our limits and develop better strategies. Play keeps us agile and adaptive. When we play, the goal is not to achieve a particular objective but to experiment and explore, uncover our blindspots and discover better ways of doing things. We play with rules, imagine alternate realities, turn things upside down and take unconventional perspectives. Play opens up new avenues and removes the barriers to entry. It is unexpected and unpredictable. It truly is the elixir of life.
THE BENEFITS OF PLAY
“The opposite of play is not work. It’s depression.” Brian Sutton-Smith
Play reduces stress, anxiety and tension, decreases self-consciousness and negative thoughts, relieves boredom, improves focus and concentration, triggers flow and opens up new possibilities. Play invites you to question assumptions, try new things and take on difficult challenges. It enlivens your body, boosts your mood, increases your energy, makes you more agile, improves your coordination and breaks habitual patterns.
Adopting a playful attitude means not over-thinking or attempting to control everything in your environment. It encourages you not to grip too tight or strive for perfection. It’s about trusting in yourself and going with the flow. Paradoxically, the path to our goals is sometimes shorter and less arduous when we stop trying so hard.