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The Power of Playing

Posted 1/11/2017 by UHBlog

Want to learn the best way to add elements of play to your day? We can help.

The Power of Playing

For adults with deadlines, family responsibilities and long to-do lists, leisure time is often considered a luxury. You might think that “playing” is something better left to preschoolers.

Not so fast, says life coach Suzette Williamson, MA, LPCC.

According to Williamson, any time you’re engaged in an activity that brings a sense of joy without any particular purpose or goal, it can help you become more productive, creative and happy. Rather, the goal of playing is to get you out of your head.

“When you play, you're not thinking about the past or the future, but are just really immersed in the present,” she says.

Think of it as a recess for your mind – and you don’t have to do flips off the monkey bars to get results.

“Playing can be as simple as throwing a ball to your dog or doing a crossword puzzle,” Williamson says. “Feelings of peace and ease really open up the learning centers of mind. Our brains have access to higher levels of thinking when we're not stressed out and overthinking things. Play, I believe, is really the bedrock of creativity.”

Taking that joyful, exploratory attitude to the office can also lead to more innovative solutions to problems, as well as better relationships with your co-workers, she says. By acting more like play-loving children, you become more open and accepting of alternate ideas, processes and experiences.

“I think what often happens as adults is that we slip into this default mode, where we think things have to be done in a certain way,” Williamson says.

It takes practice to cultivate a culture of play. Here are five tips from Williamson to put more play back in your day:

  1. Figure out what activities bring you the most joy: It could be anything from painting to riding a bike to playing with play dough. Write the ideas down on a piece of paper – and don’t worry if they seem juvenile.
    “I suggest people think back to the things they liked to do as children,” she says.
  2. Schedule playtime into your daily schedule: Block off a 10 or 15 minute slot in your day, and consider that time sacred.
    “To truly have an effect, playtime has got to be as important a part of your day as flossing,” Williamson says. “It’s not an indulgence.”
  3. Keep toys at your desk: The trinkets can be actual play things N like jacks or markers – or they can just be things that make you smile.
    “It’s not a coincidence that executives have golf putters in their office or basketball hoops at the back of their door,” she says.
  4. Put away your electronic devices: It’s hard to disconnect and truly engage in an activity when your phone is inches away, beckoning you. Distractions take you out of that playful zone.
    “The goal with playing is to enter into a flow state,” Williamson says.
  5. Ask other people to join you: Activities are often more fun when there are more people involved. And in looser, less-restrictive environments, you often discover a whole new side of other people.

Suzette Williamson, MA, LPCC is a resilience specialist and life coach at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Williamson or any other health care provider online.

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