Why is it so important we factor play into our lives as adults?
The reason why it is so important is because as adults, we are constantly being told to be perfect. We are constantly hearing negative voices in our head and in the media telling us not to be ourselves. Play connects us back to who we are. Play connects us back to our inner child who reminds us what our song is and how to embrace our whole selves, including all the imperfections and flaws. Play helps us love ourselves as we are, as we are then fully present.
When we are at play, we are in flow. We are tapping into our Zone of Genius, which also helps us to be 500% more productive. Our greatest inventions came from a sense of play. Look at the Wright Brothers, who were competing against Andrew Langley to create the first flying machine. The Wright Brothers got there first because they were following their curiosity and playing.
What are the benefits play can have on adults?
When you are at play, you are the closest to who you really are.
Play connects us back to who we are.
Play can heal divisions between us. Heck, play stopped a war for a day.
Play helps us see the inner child within each other, which builds empathy, compassion, and shared humanity.
Play helps you live a longer and more vibrant life.
Play helps you let go of results and simply be in the present moment.
While worry can be a waste of imagination, when at play, you can create something magical, like Kintsugi.
How is play connected to perfection & Kintsugi?
Being that Kintsugi is all about embracing flaws and imperfections, I see play as the opposite of perfection. Perfection is rooted in shame, ego, and constantly trying to be right, where the foundation of play is curiosity, experimentation, and awe.
Even how the concept of Kintsugi came about, where the jar was broken, one focused on perfection would throw it out, but someone instead chose to play as a way to mend the jar back together. They experimented and found gold as a way to mend it and it became even more beautiful than before. That is the power of play right there.
To allow imperfections to create something even more beautiful and powerful than you could ever imagine.
What are the most effective ways of engaging with play as an adult?
Whenever this question comes up, I think a lot of adults are looking for concrete suggestions. You should go play sports or you should pick up a new hobby, or something other cliche.
Frankly, I suggest the opposite. I suggest people get bored. Get bored the way they used to do as a kid. What does that mean tangibly? Stop binge-watching Netflix, doom-scrolling, looking at email, or inundating yourself with information. We get more information in a day than people in the 1800's got in their entire lifetime. Most of that information is telling us not to be ourselves but to be someone else. Telling us to consume, telling us to buy, but not encouraging us to play.
When you allow yourself to be bored, even if it is just for five minutes, your mind gets quiet enough to hear your inner child, and your inner child starts to give you suggestions that make you nerv-cited (nervous and excited). And that is when you can fall into flow. Simply pursuing the ideas that make you nerv-cited and letting go of the results and that's when you start playing. That's when you realize what FEAR is. False Evidence Appearing Real. And once you pursue that thing like emailing that person you've always wanted to email or taking up improv/dancing or some other activity that you have always wanted to try but were too nervous to do, when you step into that pool of FEAR, that's where the magic is. That's where you rediscover yourself and rediscover your play. Your way of play, which is unique specifically to you.
Any other suggestion on how to play is me telling you how I play rather than encouraging you to have the freedom to discover your own type of play in the playground.
Why is it something we are tapping into as a culture at this precise moment?
We are tapping into this at this precise moment because during the pandemic, we got bored. We had time to finally reflect on what brings us joy, who we are, and what type of life we want to live. You saw more adults playing during this time than any other time in the 20th century because we had that moment of pause, and that has continued. People literally have created jobs out of play now, whether that is the crew at MLW Wiffle Ball, the Savannah Bananas, players on Twitch, Adults playing nerf, the new craze over pickleball, Youtubers making marble runs and Tiktokers racing cars on treadmills, Comic Con Cosplay craze, etc., the are so many opportunities for adults to play for a living.
Play isn't a frivolous act, but one of the most powerful ways we can communicate our love for life and build some of our strongest connections with each other.
It's where humanity can be built in the most organic way. On the playground, and that playground just happens to be earth.
How much time do you typically recommend adults spend playing per day or per week?
As I mentioned earlier, play is the opposite of perfection. Perfection creates strict schedules and a minimum # of hours one must achieve. Play is a way of life and a certain perspective on life. It's like asking how many hours one should express love per day or what is the minimum amount of hugs one needs per day. How many hours a day should I choose to be myself?
It's not about a number. Play is as essential as breathing, sleeping, eating, and love. Only the person playing will know how many hours or days one should spend per week. In my case, I see life through the lens of play, so I play almost all the time. Even if it is challenging and not fun, I still can be at play, embracing a play-oriented mindset built on curiosity, awe, and a sense of wonder.
Can play be a structured activity (i.e., playing a sport), or does it have to be more "free-spirited" (i.e., free dance, etc.) for the effects to be felt?
I define play as any joyful act where you forget about time and are fully immersed at the moment and willing to let go of the results. So, that can either be a structured or free-spirited activity. The key part about play is letting go of the results and expectations, as you can only be fully present to enjoy the play if you do this. In many structured activities such as sports, if the goal is focused more on winning than just enjoying the play, then it isn't play anymore, but just another activity.
Free-spirited activities like dance can be play as long as that person has let go of what people think, isn't trying to perform, and is simply dancing for the sake of dancing. Doing this is easier said than done and isn't always one or another, but it fluctuates during the activity.
Are there any studies or research that you like to highlight around the topic?
The Importance of Play In Adults - Psych Central
Multiple studies are referenced in this article
Positive Psychology - Play Therapy
Playcore Research - Dr. Stuart Brown
Pedagogy of Play - Harvard University
Is there any difference between playing outside or inside?
Of course, there is a difference between outside and inside play, but it's more about the environment than the play activity. Dr. Stuart Brown, the Dr. of Play, speaks about the benefits of outdoor adult fitness and its benefits:
Higher Vitamin D levels
You will exercise longer and burn more calories when you are outside
Again though, it's all about perspective. If you can get immersed in the activity and it helps you get closer to who you are, tapping into the joy and curiosity of your inner child, that is when you are actually playing. Whichever activity you can do to put you into this play state, whether outside or inside, can benefit you greatly as you gain a better understanding of who you are, what brings you joy, what helps you be present, which helps you live a more vibrant, present, and fulfilling life.
Play Articles I've Contributed To
They think they can stop burnout by playing around - Wired
How to stop wasting time scrolling and start finding joy in play - Mashable
How Do You Add Play To Grown-Up Life - Even Now - NY Times
These people took risks and found their purpose pursuing their passion - Upworthy
Adults Need Play Time Too - Shondaland
The Unexpected Reason Why I Can’t Stop Playing Pickleball - Outside Magazine