Elliott Counseling Group
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PLAYFUL: Re-Create Yourself by Adding Playfulness to your life
By: Paige S. Spangler, BFA, MS, LCPC Elliott Counseling Group

Our culture can often have a short-sighted notion of the role play has in our lives by simplifying it as an extracurricular or superfluous activity. This is an incredibly limited way of thinking about play. Play is what gives life its vitality, not just with humans but with all life forms. Even starfish play. Play is the modality that helps us experiment, learn, story tell, rehearse, practice, emotionally regulate, heal, and socially connect. Many studies demonstrate that continued play decreases chances of dementia and the chances of getting heart disease. Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, clarifies how crucial play is for everyone in his statement: "When you stop playing, you start dying."

Think back to a time when you were a child and you became completely immersed in play. We used the word "recreation" without realizing its true meaning of actually re-creating. In so many ways this word demonstrates how we, as adults, need to create once again the way we were when we were children. Your play style or language is specific to you and it will help you be more present, mindful and joyful if you find more ways to incorporate this in your life. Here are seven ways to incorporate playfulness in your life.

P — Puzzle solving
Think of games like Sudoku, word search, and jigsaw puzzles as ways to add vitality to your life. Widen your definition of puzzle solving to building activities which also requires puzzle work, such as Legos or other materials.

L — Lens and language
Think of play as a way to communicate, connect, and filter information from the world. When we show that we value play we can start to see ways to apply it to work situations, interactions with others, etc. It will also show us when we need to step away from monotony and get up and do something new.

A — Absurdity
Play opens us up to absurdity and seeing the humor in the strangeness of life. Be weird, look for absurdities and share them. It will help you be silly and laugh not just when you need it, but when others need it too.

Y — Your loves
As the writer Charlie Kaufman says, "You are what you love, not what loves you". This speaks of the importance of knowing what you love and incorporating it more in your life. Do what you love and your will be more like you. If you don't know what you love, experiment with trying new things.

F — Forget perfection
Finger paint with pudding, make homemade play dough, decorate cookies and make a mess. Focus on the experience not the product.

U — Use your imagination
Daydream, wear costumes, make collages, doodle, and write down stories for interesting things you see. Share with everyone or keep is to yourself.

L — Laugh
Watch outtakes of your favorite shows or watch silly animal YouTube videos. Laughter is contagious and it can help you get back to a playful or childlike state; and with this you are slowly finding a way to re-create yourself.