Is there a poverty of play?

WRITTEN BY: Marilyn Barefoot

Play is a basic human need as essential to our well-being as sleep, so when we’re low on play, our minds and bodies notice.

Over time, play deprivation (a poverty of play) can reveal itself in certain patterns of behaviour: We might get cranky, rigid, feel stuck in a rut or feel victimized by life.

To benefit most from the rejuvenating benefits of play, we need to incorporate it into our everyday lives, “not just wait for that two-week vacation every year.”

What all play has in common is that it offers a sense of engagement and pleasure, takes the player out of a sense of time and place, and the experience of doing it is more important than the outcome.

Although some people may appear more playful than others, researchers say that we are all wired by evolution to play.

At work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction. At home, playing together, can enhance bonding and communication.

Researchers have recently identified four types of playful adults:

  1. Those who outwardly enjoy fooling around with friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances.
  2. Those who are generally lighthearted and not preoccupied by the future consequences of their behavior.
  3. Those who play with thoughts and ideas.
  4. Those who are whimsical, exhibiting interest in strange and unusual things and are amused by small, everyday observations.

Most adults spend the bulk of their waking hours working and earning an income, so making sure you experience some type of play is essential.

Here are a couple of ways you can easily incorporate play while you work:

  1. Keep simple games, like Jenga, in your work area. You can play solo or invite others in your safe workspace to join in.
  2. Have colorful pens, pencils, crayons and large paper on the walls and work surface, where you can freely draw or write.
  3. Keep playful objects like a spinning top or Play-Doh on your desk to relax your mind, keep your hands busy during conference calls, and reignite creativity.

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

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