Updated: Feb 20
In my series of posts for young adults, I’ve talked a lot about work and finances. From creating multiple streams of income to figuring out taxes, we’ve discussed multiple serious topics. While all of these issues are important and part of becoming an adult, I don’t want readers to make the mistake of thinking that’s what life is all about. As you get older and leave home to start your own career and family, you may start thinking that you have to put away childish things and act like an adult all the time. You forget what it was like to get involved in games with your friends, indulge in hobbies that brought you joy, and just play. I see far too many adults who have forgotten how to play and I see it negatively impacting their lives in nearly every area. I personally believe that everyone, no matter what age, needs to set aside time for play. Here’s why.
It Will Help You Reset Your Creativity
When we focus too much on work, we get stuck in a rut and it becomes difficult to see the big picture. When your focus narrows, you can miss out on big ideas and are less likely to consider concepts that don’t fit into your definition of the way things should be. The magical thing about play is that it resets and ignites your creativity. Play shakes up your preconceptions, pulls you out of your normal routine, and helps you think about things in new ways. Whether you’re playing in nature, playing word games, or simply playing hide and seek with your nephew, you’ll be amazed at what ‘ah ha!’ moments can come up with after just an hour or so of play.
It Will Make You More Relaxed and Flexible
Too much work and too little play not only makes Jack a dull boy—it also makes him stressed out! Maintaining emotional agility and flexibility is a vital skill that will not only make you better at your career, but it will also make you happier person overall. It’s hard to have that when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed. When you reserve time for play, you rejuvenate your spirit and increase your capacity for flexibility. This allows you to respond positively to whatever life throws at you without getting irritated or upset and helps you maintain clarity to come up with constructive solutions.
It Will Improve Your Work Life Balance
Work life balance is a challenge for almost everyone. As soon as you get that first ‘real job’, you’ll likely find yourself juggling long hours with spending time with loved ones and taking time for yourself. It’s vital that you start early when it comes to creating balance in your life. Even if you don’t yet have a spouse and family, balancing your work with play and downtime now will help you set that habit for life.
Ways to Play
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that play is important. But for some of you, how to play might be just as big of a challenge as making the time for play itself! While there’s no right or wrong way to play, here are some suggestions:
Play with kids - If you have kids, you’ve got an instant passport to play. If you don’t yet have kids, you probably have nieces and nephews, friends with kids, or you can even volunteer with an organization where you get to interact with kids. Just hanging out with kids is a great way to initiate play because they always have ideas when it comes to having fun. Go with the flow and try to match their level of enthusiasm and immersion.
Play in your hobby - Do you have a favorite hobby? It could be woodworking, writing poetry, hiking, or anything that calms you down and brings you enjoyment. This is the perfect place for you to “play”. Though hiking up a rocky hill or scribbling in your notebook might not feel like play, it’s the adult equivalent of kids playing hide and seek. Playing in nature is one of the best way to rejuvenate and I try to get out and experience the outdoors as much as possible.
Play through games - You don’t have to give up games just because you ‘grew up’. You can still hang out with your friends and shoot some pool, play darts, or break out a new board or card game. There are so many games available these days that it’s incredibly easy to find something you enjoy doing with those you like spending time with. Try out some new games and see how it gets you thinking (and relaxing).
It’s a shame when young adults think they need to forego play to be taken seriously. I think the most intelligent, successful, and well-balanced people I know are the ones who play the most.
Questions or comments about playing? Leave ‘em below!