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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Why Even Grownups Need Playtime

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

We are supposed to grow out of the need to play as we get older, and we are often taught that being an adult involves putting away childish things and facing up to the realities of life. But just how far should we take the demands of ‘adulting’, as generation Z calls it? Some psychologists believe that all work and no play is damaging for our mental health.

As an adult, it can be easy to get stuck in a treadmill of work, household chores, and family responsibilities. We might then spend our spare time in front of the TV or scrolling through a computer screen. Most of us seem to lose the natural ability to let our imaginations guide our actions as we leave childhood behind.

Even many of the creative activities we take part in as adults are focused on outcomes rather than the process itself, as this can inhibit our ability to really enjoy ourselves and let the imagination fully take over.

For example, as a child we may have loved drawing without worrying about comparisons to others’ work, but as an adult we might be overly concerned about producing amateurish results, and stop trying altogether. The same could be true of dancing, singing, cooking, writing, or any other creative outlet.

By learning to let go of critical voices, either our own or those of others, we become less concerned about the fear of failure and just have a go at whatever is nagging at the back of our minds, such as writing a short story or playing an instrument. Our adult egos may not like the results, but our inner child will have enjoyed the journey.

Psychologists define ‘play’ as any activity that is just about having unstructured fun with no other point to it than to enjoy yourself. It is often spontaneous, such as singing along to your favourite song on the car radio, or an impromptu football game with the kids. It’s all about the moments when we reconnect to the things we love about life.

This might sound trivial, but in fact by allowing ourselves to be reminded of the lighter side of life, we can trigger the release of feel good hormones such as endorphins, which help to regulate our emotions and keep anxiety, stress and depression at bay. When we are in the ‘flow’ of the moment, we become relaxed and more receptive to new experiences and ideas.

Taking part in creative activities, even something as simple as solving a crossword puzzle, can help to keep the brain sharp and mitigate against the risk of dementia as we grow older. An ability to connect with your inner playfulness can also improve relationships, by using humour to strengthen bonds and heal hurts.

In our busy lives, many of us might think we just don’t have time to play, or struggle to get into a playful frame of mind. Techniques such as mindful meditation can help you to learn how to connect with the present moment and to leave the worries of everyday life behind.

If you are interested in working with a Harley Street hypnotherapist, please get in touch today.

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