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Personal growth

Play Like a Child

By August 31, 2010No Comments

In mid-August, there was still snow on the ground. But, fortunately for me, we were experiencing a heat wave, so at 9,000 feet above sea level, even though it was already 5pm, it was still 80 degrees outside.

“Burr! It’s freezing!” I shouted as I slowly stepped into the glacial lake water, the soft mud squishing between my toes. My friends cheered me on from the shore as I held my breath and dunked my head under water.

Exhilarated, I swam calmly across the placid lake, creating small ripples with each breast stroke. Then, my inner child kicked into gear. Pretending to be a dolphin, I swirled and twirled around in circles, keeping my head above water. I also dove up and down, using my legs to propel me forward. Gleefully, I laughed out loud and encouraged my friends to come in. “You’ve got to try this! It’s amazing. But, despite my pleas, they remained dry, on shore. This was my special moment – a ritual I had chosen to help anchor in my intention for experiencing more fun and play in my life.

As adults we rarely allow ourselves to experience the freedom and bliss that comes from playing like kids. Burdened by our responsibilities and to do lists, we feel weighed down and tense, and thus experience very little joy.

In a recent Vim & Vigor magazine article titled, Adults at Play, Share DeCroix Bane, Ph.D., chair of the Mental Health and Aging Network said, “Research indicates that play can help you relax, enhance creativity and can stimulate curiosity. You allow for a different part of the mind to function in a different way other than what it would do on a daily basis.”

Besides the mental benefits, the article suggests there are physical health benefits as well. Before my swimming ritual, I had been feeling poorly with a virus for several days. By the end of the day, I noticed my virus had completely disappeared.

Given the mental and physical benefits of play, what are some ways you might incorporate more of it into your life? Consider the activities you loved to do as a child. What made you laugh? Did you enjoy jump roping, skipping, dancing, singing, playing games, coloring, blowing bubbles, swinging, being outdoors? What part of these playful activities made you joyful? For example, was it being outside and playing ball or spending time with friends? How can you experience the essence of these activities in your life right now i.e. joining an adult’s sports team?

I invite you to make a date with your inner child everyday. Whether you are at work, with friends or by yourself, take time to consciously play even if it’s for only five minutes. Then notice how you feel. Does playing lighten up your mood? Do you feel more alive inside? Write down your observations in a special “play journal.”

As you lighten up and have more fun, you will experience a renewed energy for life.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

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Karen Mehringer, MA, MFT - Grief support, counseling and life coaching in Santa Cruz area.