Feel Like a Kid Again!
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw
When was the last time you remember feeling like a kid? I mean that in the best possible ways; playful, carefree, in the moment, moving your body with abandon, completely unselfconscious? If you picture a beautiful summer day, kids are laughing and squealing with joy as they run and play, doesn’t it just make you smile? Many adults think of play as only for children. Turns out there are incredible benefits to allowing ourselves to play, and innumerable ways in which to do so. According to the National Institute for Play (NIFP), play is the gateway to vitality. In their article on the importance of adult play, Helpguide notes, “Playing with your romantic partner, co-workers, pets, friends, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.” https://www.khca.org/files/2015/10/The-Benefits-of-Play-for-Adults.pdf
For me, being playful is incredibly important, in my personal life, and as a coach. It helps me feel creative, relaxed, open, accepting, and joyful, and, I believe, it helps those with whom I am working feel more receptive and creative in moving towards their goals. Stuart Brown, Director for the NIFP, reminds us that though some people seem wired to be more playful than others, we are all equipped by evolution to play. Importantly, not only are there benefits associated with play, but Brown warns us that if we go too long without any sense of play our bodies notice. We can become cranky, rigid, depressed, and feel stuck or even victimized. Allowing ourselves to play, on a daily basis, is the key to optimizing the protective and generative effects of play on our body, mind and spirit. Reason enough to allow yourself time to play and feel like a kid again, right?
Play and Relationships
At Penn State University, researchers investigated the top attributes that men and women look for in a potential mate. While the rank order was slightly different, for both men and women, a sense of humor, fun-loving, and playful were ranked in the top five. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ985599.pdf Playfulness has also been credited with building trust and empathy in relationships, and the stress-reducing aspects can also contribute to being able to show up with your partner as more present, more loving, and more connected. In fact, “play can help you be the best version of yourself when facing “adult problems” like career stress, parenting, marriage, and the many other responsibilities that come with age.” https://living.aahs.org/behavioral-health/the-benefits-of-play-for-adults/
So, grab your partner and get playing! There is no end to the number of ways you can get creative and be playful together. Can you imagine how allowing yourselves to feel like a kid again together could fire up the sparks and spontaneity in your relationship?
What can you do to get your play on and feel like a kid again?
Whether you like to play board games, throw a ball around, play chase with your kids or dog, write and act out stories, hike or bike, or any other playful activity, none of it is a waste of time. It will all serve to reduce your stress, improve your brain functioning, stimulate your creativity and problem solving, and improve your relationships. “What all play has in common,” Brown says, “is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome.” In other words, play just for the joy inherent in playing.
I’ve been experimenting with my own ways to get my play on that all bring me straight back to the playground, both literally and figuratively. Why not try some of them? I think these tips are the closest thing you may find to a time machine! Try not to worry about what other people may think of you… after all, kids don’t.
5 Ways to Feel Like a Kid Again
1. Jump on the playground equipment! There is a reason that all the big companies have slides in the middle of their offices, they’re fun! Swing on the swings, take a twirl on the merry-go-round, grab your partner and see saw! Have you still got what it takes to take on the monkey bars? Why not find out?
2. Skip! Skipping makes me feel like I’m flying, and it immediately makes me feel like a kid again. Unlike running, it feels easier on my joints, and it gives me a fantastic aerobic workout. Give it a try, even for just a few steps, while you are jogging. It will change everything.
3. Swing your arms! Can you picture kids at play just letting their arms fly all over the place? Do it like that. Just let them loose while you are running around or twist your body side to side and let your loose limbs wrap around yourself. Super fun!
4. Play tag! I can’t think of anything that makes me laugh so readily as trying to escape being caught by a family member or trying to catch the dog in an open field. It immediately makes me feel like a kid again, laughing, out of breath and running with abandon.
5. Run through the sprinklers! For me, the days of enjoying a slip and slide have slipped away. I’m more likely to slip a disc in that scenario! The child-like thrill of running through a cold sprinkler on a hot day, however, is just a hose and a $5 sprinkler attachment away. With the kids, or even just your partner, still fun after all these years.