The word “play” has been popping up in my awareness lately, and I’m wondering if I’m any good at it. I believe I have a good work / play balance—meaning that my days are a combination of getting items done on my work to-do list while not letting those get in the way of exercise, connecting with friends, eating well, reading for enjoyment, and resting when necessary, among other fun items. The reason I’m questioning my ability to play is that my play items have gotten a little stale lately, sometimes even feeling a bit like a job. (Of course, in the picture above, I am definitely engaged in fun play.)
According to the Montessori Child Development Center, play can be described as “any activity someone finds enjoyable and interesting and is valuable in itself for that reason.” I defer to Montessori because I believe that children have a greater connection to play than most adults I know. Watching children can give you an intimate connection with the joy inherent in play.
There doesn’t need to be a distinct line between work and play either. If you take a sense of play into your work, you will find the time passing quickly and a sense of peace at the end of the day. While this will not be easy in some jobs, I believe “play” can be an attitude we take into a lot of work situations. My own work often feels less like work and more like enjoyment, and I feel quite blessed with that.
Alternatively, times of supposed play can be dragged down with a sense of needing to get the activity accomplished because it’s “good for me.” That is not a great mindset for experiencing the joys of play. I think I inherited a Protestant work ethic of hard work and frugality and sometimes it seeps into my playtime. While I don’t give up my play, I might feel guilty about it (another great inheritance) or not let myself be as spontaneous or free as I would like.
Ideas to Get More Play In Your Life
In my book, Savor Every Bite, there are some great suggestions that might get your play juices flowing.
Savor the Pleasant
Studies show that pleasant events actually outnumber unpleasant events by a three-to-one-margin in everyday life! That means the odds are stacked in your favor for being able to enjoy yourself most of the time. It only depends on your ability to notice the pleasant, in the present moment, and have a certain degree of appreciation. In this way, a sense of play can be felt throughout the day.
When you experience something pleasant, try to home in on the exact description of how you’re feeling. You might need more than one feeling word to capture the entirety of your experience. Take your time to explore different words until you get it right. Open yourself up to being more attentive when pleasant moments occur, and then give a juicy, descriptive name to how you’re feeling. For a list of feelings words, go here. Remember that you can find pleasant moments at work or at play!
Just for Me! List
First, make a list of activities that are “just for me” that make you feel deliciously alive. You can include anything, from playing the piano to gardening to dancing to skydiving. The sky is literally the limit!
Second, schedule a time each week (or every day!) for an activity that makes you feel alive and brings you joy. Taking care of you might have to be scheduled into your calendar until you get better at getting it done, but be sure not to make it into work. The calendar could simply read “just for me.” You can have your very own playdate!
Commit to Play
Setting intentions is extremely useful in getting things done—even play. Take a moment to write down your intention or a relevant saying that helps you bring more play into your life and put it next to your computer, on your refrigerator, or somewhere else you will see it often. The saying I have written down right now is “What does a vibrant and radiant life look like to you?” I love this question and it helps me question what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. It connects me to a sense of play. Connect to your commitment and notice how it begins to permeate your day, gladden your heart, and make choices that bring you more happiness and joy.
Look for ways to play, ways to bring a sense of play to more activities, and broaden your ideas about play. According to Tantra Yoga, there is a way to savor the incredible intensity underlying all experiences—even the most common ones. Lila is Sanskrit for “play,” “amusement,” and the sense that the universe has been manifested as an act of play by the divine. According to the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche, “in play, you can find freedom, revelation, illumination.” With play, life becomes a mysterious, self-renewing process of wonder and delight.
Enjoy and Savor!!!