This past Sunday at a family party, I climbed out of the bottom of a big bundle involving me and a group of children (the children were high and buzzing on cake and were wielding balloons like weapons) with a huge smile on my face. I was the only adult involved and it was the beginning of a balloon war that ensued, more bundles, a lot of running around, screaming, chasing and then a massive wrestle. It was awesome.
When I am out playing with my children, I see a lot of adults desperate to work the childishness out of their children. To get them to sit still, be restrained and altogether manageable. It can be tiring when children are involved, especially if we are trying to stop the play. But when we let go of the adult role and become the child for a while, it is amazingly energising.
I am not just promoting anarchy here. I write this because it is healthy. Playing and being childlike is a source of much well-being for adults – and not just being involved in mass wrestles and bundles with kids. Playing with colleagues, friends, family members and your partner has a huge amount of physical, psychological and emotional benefit for you.
Lots of my clients do virtually nothing that is actually fun, playful or childllike when we examine a typical day, week or even an entire month of their life. Instead, ram-packed lives are filled with commitments and things that are supposed to be so productive that there is no time for fun and that fun is not considered important. Even when some do choose to take some time out for themselves, they crash out in front of the TV, or drink too much, or hook into the internet in some shape or form, or we isolate ourselves or distract ourselves and tune out of life and the world we live in.
The day we lost the ability to play heartily and regularly is the point at which we needed it more than ever.
When we play, I mean properly play, we get to abandon work commitments, we get to bask in complete freedom: No structure, just creative, joyful bliss. It is wholly being engaged in the now, engaged in the experience of play and not trying to accomplish anything. It’s pointless! In a good way!
At a training I was running very recently, I was told something by someone that I have been told on many occasions; that my style of teaching is unusual and not what they are used to, especially as they have spent a lot of time in formal education – that they are not used to having fun and laughter in a classroom. My therapy clients say the same. I always tell them that I simply could not do it if it were not fun. I could not running training courses or therapy sessions if they were not fun.
Why would anyone want to dedicate most of their adult life to doing something they did not enjoy or never had fun doing? I mean, fun is the good stuff, that is being alive, right?
Perhaps it means sharing jokes, pulling legs, dancing, singing, kicking a ball around, dressing up, having party games, going for walks or bike rides, or going to war with a group of 3-8 year olds armed with long balloons! However you do it, playing genuinely in childlike fashion will also ensure that you receive a wide array of psychological, physiological and emotional benefits.
To truly extol the virtues of playing in a childlike fashion, I offer up this list of the benefits of being playful and childlike regularly, in the hope that you will start dedicate some time each and every day where you just play and get child-like. For the greatest benefits, play should involve at least one other person and be free from electronic gadgets, so you can unleash your own creative abilities and let your brain roam free, unplugged and unfettered:
1. Belly Laughs:
Children laugh spontaneously and they laugh from the belly.
On a health conscious note, laughing lowers blood pressure which reduces the risk of strokes and heart attacks. laughing is a virtual cardio workout too. Laughter reduces stress hormone levels which some suggest also helps improve immune functioning. In line with that though, laughing activates T cells that help fight illness. Laughing is a great workout for your abs and laughter releases endorphins that are the body’s natural pain killers. All in all laughter increases our sense of general well-being and those who laugh a lot tend to deal with disease better than those who are more negative.
The positive feelings and attitudes that develop out of laughter stays with you well after the laughing has calmed down. Childlike playfulness and belly laughs will contribute to an ongoing progressive, positive, optimistic perspective that will prove incredibly valuable when you have to deal with life’s difficulties – they won’t get on top of you as they may once have done.
2. Stress Relief:
Playing and acting like a child provides wonderful stress relief. The irony is that people with the most stressful lives seem to be the most closed off to the notion of actually having some childish fun and play. Childlike playing is the perfect antidote to modern stressful lives that so many seem to live. As I already wrote in point number 1, laughter releases endorphins and those very same endorphins will lessen the stressful feelings in the body too.
To find some balance, instead of reaching for the wine bottle when you get in from work, work out a way you can return to your childhood and enjoy some childlike pleasures – what did you like doing as a child? You’re never too old for for those things. What’s more, the real-life social interaction of playing with family and friends helps us to prevent increased stress and depression.
That clichéd expression is true – you are as old as you feel. You decide how old you behave, how old you think, how old you feel and therefore how old you are. Age can be a state of mind depending on how you let it.
Childlike activities, engaged in heartily and with absolute abandon is a fabulous way to make you feel rejuvenated and younger. Even if only for a short period of time, dispense of your adult responsibilities; let go of them and be a child again.
Your brain will be rejuvenated too. If you decide to play in ways that involve playing certain types of games, or doing puzzles, some of these fun activities will challenge the brain and protect it from memory issues and the problems that get associated with old age.
4. Mental Stimulation:
As we all know, children are learning machines. They have to learn at an incredible rate as they progress through those early years. They often learn the most effectively when playing. The same is true of adults. Any new material you are learning, or new skills you are developing will all be learned better and more effectively when it is enjoyable, when you are in a good mood, receptive, relaxed, engaged and in a playful mindset.
What’s more, when yo are playing your imagination is stimulated and you can get your full mind engaged in problem solving, adapting to change, learning new things and so on.
5. Rediscovering The Simple Life:
For many, life is complex. Really complex. Yet so many personal development and self-improvement books, schools, ideals and authors all advise that it is healthy to simplify life. Dispense with the unnecessary or the overly complicated facets of life that we simply do not need or that cause us worry, stress and undue concern.
This is another major benefit of being playful and childlike on a regular basis. We get to enjoy the simplicity of being a child. When you truly, authentically step into the shoes of a child once again, see through those eyes, hear through those ears, feel with that heart, you engage with the world in a far simpler fashion, with a different focus. So when you play, embrace the child, do not just be an adult version, properly immerse yourself in it with the same perspective that a child has. The simplicity is invigorating.
6. Interpersonal Connections Bloom:
When you play, share laughter, share fun, it is a very intimate way to connect with those around you. This naturally enhances trust, creates healthy bonds, develops compassion and you develop friendships in ways that are robust and beautiful.
To play with others does not simply mean engaging in specific activities (though it can be that) – it might simply mean that you be playful. That you have a healthily playful mindset. This way of being can create natural flowing communication when necessary, it helps break the ice in certain situations, it makes you stand out in a credible way, it can help you ease through situations that are usually perceived as stressful or demanding, and it can improve personal and professional relationships.
7. Accelerated Energy Levels:
I alluded to this one earlier. One thing I often say in jest to my friends and colleagues is that I find running marathons and ultra marathons or running my 9 day intensive training courses a doddle compared to spending a full day having to run around with my children. They seem to have unlimited energy and a never-ending desire for chasing fun. The end of those days when I sit down after they’ve gone to bed, I feel so good though. I feel that kind of healthy tired sensation that shows you’ve earned your fatigue. It’s a rewarding feeling that ensures I wake up the next day feeling fit and alive.
Modern adult life involves a lot of sedentary activities such as sitting at desks, watching TV, playing video games, flicking through Facebook and so on. Real-life activity, mobility and taking action is good for health and well-being; we get to be fit, it increases our energy levels and it is a really fun way to exercise. Fitness keeps us feeling younger, revitalised, healthy and we have more zest for life as a result.
I think these often quoted words by George Bernard Shaw express this point best,
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
8. Looking Silly? No Problem!
Let me tell you about an ongoing tradition that I have kept up in recent years at my end of academic year annual Summer party for my training college…..
– One year I had a breakdancing competition at the beginning of the night, wearing my tuxedo, to get the night started.
– One year, I organised all of our attendees to do be part of Hypnotherapists do Harlem Shake meme.
– This year, along with a couple of friends, we did our own version of the embarrassing dance routine from the first Inbetweeners film wearing highly crude t-shirts.
– Every year, I dance until I am pouring with sweat, and I am no natural dancer.
– Every year, I can be found at the end of the night playing silly games like spoof or the table tap game in the early hours.
Don’t let others rob you of your playfulness, do not let fear of rejection or ridicule stop you from being playful, just remember that if you do it gradually, step-by-step and build up, the more playful you are, the easier it gets.
When we become playful, self-consciousness goes out of the window and I cannot tell you how liberating and freeing that is! Children are not innately self-conscious, they pick that up as life progresses. They learn embarrassment and self-consciousness that inhibits them. As we learn to play, we get to throw out inhibition, cast off those chains of fear that you might look silly. Who cares what others might say? As that other often quoted expression goes,
“Sing like no one is listening.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching,
and live like it’s heaven on earth.”
9. It’s Downright Fun:
This ought to be clear by now. I’m adding it here, because I want it to be obvious. What kind of life is a life without fun? Fun is not exclusive to children! When we play, we let go of all our grown-up-ness and just enjoy being.
Do silly stuff.
If you feel inhibited, or uncomfortable at the thought, then it can be done privately – but heck, make it your aim to truly adopt point 8 at some stage.
We can’t just spend all day every day wearing our coats as superhero capes and running around being aeroplanes, I get that. However, we can and surely all want to leave some of the more boring constraints of adult life behind at times.
10. Makes You A Better Parent:
This might not apply to everyone reading this article, it is important enough for me to want to include though. When you truly engage and empathise with the role of a child, you are reminded how children think and feel. I sometimes yearn for the days when the biggest issue of my life was that my Daddy would not let me wear my Spiderman costume to go swimming in, or to eat an entire chocolate Easter egg in bed at night-time, but a child’s worries are just as real and relevant to them.
When we learn again how to be a child, and subsequently we get that insight into their reality, we connect better, we appreciate them more and we understand them better – parent/child relationships develop greatly as a result of this.
11. Boosts Productivity:
When you make things more like play, and as a result more pleasurable, you become more effective and productive. So many people think investing time is the way to be more productive and simply exchange more of their time for what they believe is productivity. It is not exclusively about the amount of time you invest – it is the quality of what you do with that time. One hour working at a very high standard is more effective than 6 hours at a low, uninspiring standard.
I cannot understand it when I speak to customer service agents at insurance companies or at call centres that sound like their work is a living hell whereby they derive no joy or satisfaction. When you spend so much of your life working, the quality of it will effect your quality of life in general.
Make work fun, engage the playful mindset, or at the very least, go and revitalise yourself with some time taken for play. If you have hit a stumbling block, or a mind block, or are concerned about direction, or just feel at a low ebb, then go and replenish those energy stores and that vigour for life with a play break; have some laughs, take your mind off the issue at hand, connect with others, and become creative. Stress and worry is using up the brains functioning that could be spent creatively solving problems and inspiring you in a forward direction. Play refreshes, inspires and lightens the load while also helping you adopt a healthier, more useful perspective.
These 11 benefits are there for you today – they will add so much dimension to your life if you take more time to be playful and childlike each day. Right now though, you might be asking; how do I get more playful? How do I return to being more childlike at times? Here are a few basic ideas to help you become more playful and adopt a child-like approach to life:
– Make time in your schedule that you dedicate to fun and being playful. Switch off all electronic devices, disconnect, shake off your adult self and do something that is active and fun. Maybe even do something you used to love doing but have not done in a long time.
– I recently spent a day at the beach with two of my greatest friends and we we played games; a couple of board games (focused on our inner geeks) and the ‘Cards Against Humanity’ game which is hilarious. We went out for lunch, we went to the arcade at the pier and we shared a lot of jokes along the way. Why not host a games night yourself or work out a way to do something similar?
– Go play crazy golf, go to an afternoon tea dance or go sing karaoke.
– Offer to join a friend when they walk their dog, or go and throw a frisbee with a friend.
– Offer to babysit friend’s children, plan a play date or set some time aside to be at the bottom of a bundle with your own children… Or have a full-blown tickle fight.
– Make jokes with people in the shopping queue.
– Be artistic, watch some comedy, read something hilarious (I have been watching Red Dwarf episodes and reading Viz comic since my mid-teens)
There are too many benefits to ignore getting more playful. Reconnect with your inner child! If I have not convinced you, then have a listen to Guy and Susanah Clark singing ‘Come From The Heart’ you’ll recognise the lyrics, do adopt them in earnest – I’ll be back soon.
If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then visit these pages:
1. Do you need more playfulness and fun in your life?
Coaching with Adam Eason Or Hypnotherapy with Adam Eason
2. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others become happier and more fulfilled?
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
3. Are you a hypnotherapist for whom lack of playfulness is negatively effecting the success of your business? Do you need more fun to fulfil your career ambitions?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar.