A quote that I’ve used before that I probably saw first on the Jack’s Winning Words blog goes something like this – “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw.
Today is National Mental Health Day. Across the nation serious and weighty discussions, newspaper articles and TV stories will focus upon detecting and treating mental health issues. I wonder how many will bring up playing as a treatment for mental health issues. Yet the ability to let go of anxieties, fears or self-hate is a natural component of playing – playing in the childlike sense of the word, not competing, just playing.
Children often hear the admonishment, “Grow up”, from adults or “Stop acting like a baby”. We take away the joy of their childhood play because it annoys us in our serious, sometimes dour adult lives. Even in what we call play as adults we find ways to make it competitive, to focus on keeping score and turning that play into serious business. When we “grow up” we tend to squeeze the fun out of too much of our lives and forget how to just play.
Maybe one part of the answer to improving our mental health is to learn howe to play again. It was kind of funny to see the old playground game of dodge ball reemerge as an adult activity. It probably started as just a fun thing to do to recapture that playground spirit; but, then, adults did to it what adults do and made it competitive, formed teams and holding formal tournaments – they took a lot of the innocent fun out of it.
Playing does not have to be an organized thing with rules and goals. It is just a time when you have fun for no reason other than to have fun. Taking time to play may be a very short, little respite in your day, maybe as you are getting ready for the day in the morning. I’ve posted here before that I often will just make a funny face in the mirror in the morning. There is no reason for it; it just breaks any serious mood that I might be in and forces a smile or a laugh – it is play.
So, take some time for yourself to just play. Maybe make a funny face in your mirror in the morning. Life is too short to be serious all the time. Learn how to play again.