Halloween is the PLAY holiday. Play is the “brain candy” that dissolves stress. Play is hardwired into our genes. The benefits of play and laughter in overcoming and preventing stress are numerous.
Laughter is Internal Jogging
Laughter is “internal jogging” and studies show laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, boosts your immune function and increases muscle flexion. Research tells us play is linked to strong family relationships, helps the brain learn faster, increases energy and is a key to slowing the aging process.
Halloween is Play Time
Halloween creates the perfect opportunity for each of us to remember the critical nature of play in our stressful chaotic lives. Play is a biological process like sleep and is essential for our mental and physical health.
Play Will Rewire Your Brain
Playing isn’t just for kids anymore. Emerging research tells us that play can rewire your brain, reduce stress and depression, help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and memory loss, and even decrease chronic pain. When you play and laugh, it can boost your immune system, lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones.
With more than 76 percent of Americans indicating that they experience “great stress” at least one full day during the week, play needs to be an important part of an established health routine. Your school age children are experiencing tremendous stress on a daily basis. Everyone needs to unplug and remember to play.
Schedule Play Into Your Life
Every two to four hours schedule some form of play into your day. Science is providing data showing that playfulness leads to more creativity and productivity. Researcher Marian Diamond in her Response of the Brain to Enrichment work asserts playful environments powerfully shape the cerebral cortex of the brain where the highest cognitive processing takes place. Researchers link play to healthy relationships, strong family ties and creativity. Play is absorbing and stimulating. Play can diffuse anger, fear, and anxiety. It is critical to learn to schedule play into your life.
Play at Work
- Physical play. Keep a small basketball hoop in your office, or a golf green with a club, or a dart board. Keep an online game site on your computer and play once a day. Create times during the day when your play is physical and others where it is mental, like computer games.
- Color. Color invites us to be playful. Keep colored highlighters for use when you are working. Play with the different colors. Bring a playful lunchbox to work. If possible, wear playful socks as a reminder to not take life too seriously. You may wear playful or colorful jewelry.
- Coworkers. Tell coworkers the science of play and encourage them to join with you to increase your play.
- Animals. Take an animal to work if possible. Animals have many play cycles during the day and will remind you to play.
- Break room. Keep playful mugs near the coffee pot. When you are serious and getting your cup of coffee, they may bring a chuckle.
- Playful listening. Keep a radio station on or stream your most playful, fun music. Throughout the day listen to music and sing along. Listening to music increases your serotonin (the healing, relaxing hormone) level and when you sing, research tells us that you get an immune boost of 250 percent. Sing and dance around your office for a few minutes and notice the difference in your work.
Play With Family and Friends
- Physical play. Keep hula hoops, jump ropes, a basketball goal outside, and a badminton net in the backyard. Keep downloads or CD’s of your favorite fun music. Younger people may like Cinderella and other livel,y fun music that are family favorites. While dinner is cooking, or after the evening news, play some fun music and everyone in the family can sing and dance. You can even get an inexpensive karaoke for your home. You can also play a family game of hide and seek once a week. Turn off the lights and play hide and seek. We did this and danced to Cinderella until my daughters went to college.
- Kitchen play. Invite friends over to make a pizza, soup, or subs. Have your children bake cookies with different shaped cookie cutters. Laugh as each person cuts out their favorite shapes and don’t forget the colored sprinkles and icings. Play with holiday and fun themes throughout the year.
- Bath play. Those evening baths with the kids can be a great source of playfulness–bubbles, playing with toys and blowing bubbles under the water.
- Animal play. Playing with the animals is always fun. Take your dog on an evening stroll with your friends or family. The exercise is good for everyone.
- Play games. Keep a good supply of family and friend board games in the closet and play the games that keep everyone engaged and laughing.
Don’t Wait to Play
The key is this: don’t wait for the play just happen. Realize this is a key to your happy, healthy life. Plan the playful times into your day and week. Whether you are at work, home, alone or with your family, there is always a way to create a time for play.