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Play Makes You Happy and Healthy

by Dr. Kathleen Hall

When was the last time you played?

Dr. Margaret Duncan, at University of Wisconsin and president of the Association of the Study of Play believes play is not the opposite of work; it is the antidote to the work of adults. Researchers link play to healthy relationships, strong family ties, and creativity. Play is absorbing and stimulating. Play can diffuse anger, fear, and anxiety. Play and laughter help in overcoming and preventing stress. Studies show that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function. Stress decreases artery diameter by 35 percent and laughter increases artery diameter by 22 percent says a University of Maryland study.

You must learn to schedule play into your life. Listed below are a few play tips for you to consider.

Play for Adults

  1. Schedule some fun time. Create times during the day when your play is physical and others where it is mental, like computer games. Every two to four hours schedule some form of play into your day. Keep a small basketball hoop in your office, a golf green with a club, or a dartboard. Once a day, play on an online game site or play your favorite games on your computer.
  2. Bring more color into your life. Color invites us to be playful. Keep colored highlighters for use when you are working. Play with the different colors.
  3. Add fun to your wardrobe. If possible, wear playful socks as a reminder to not take life too seriously. You may wear playful or colorful jewelry.
  4. Get everyone in on the fun. Tell coworkers the science of play and encourage them to join you; it will increase your play.
  5. Beloved pets. Take an animal to work if possible. Animals have many play cycles during the day and will remind you to play.
  6. Fun accessories. Keep playful mugs near the coffee pot. When you are serious get a cup of coffee and your coffee cup may bring a chuckle. Also, consider bringing a playful lunchbox to work.
  7. The power of music. Keep a radio station on or playlists with your most playful, fun music. Throughout the day listen to music and sing along. Listening to music increases your serotonin (the healing, relaxing hormone) 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 Your Kids

  • Family music time. Keep lively, fun music like Disney’s Frozen nearby. While dinner is cooking, or after the evening news, play music and encourage everyone in the family to sing and dance.
  • Family games. You can also play a family game of hide and seek once a week. Turn off the lights to play hide and seek, (we did this and danced to Cinderella until my daughters went to college. And we still do today when we are together).
  • Kitchen adventures. Have your children bake cookies with different shaped cookie cutters. Help them cut out their favorite shapes and don’t forget the colored sprinkles and icings.
  • Backyard fun. Playing with the family animals in the backyard is always fun. In your backyard keep a badminton net and a basketball hoop up for family games.
  • Board games. Keep a good supply of family board games in the closet and play the games that will keep everyone playing and laughing.

Lastly, don’t forget that play doesn’t just happen. You have to make time for it. You must realize this is a key to your healthy lifestyle and plan the playful times into your day and week.

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