Why Play is NOT a Waste of Time

Posted by on June 16, 2014

When we hear the word “play” , we usually think of two things: Something kids do and “waste of time”.

Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to play because it doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t check things off the to-do list. We already have so much to do, we really can’t spare the time to just have fun. Or we stick that are fun AND get something done. The problem with that is that after awhile, they stop feeling like play and start feeling like work. A lot of people run into this when they turn their hobby into a business. Sometimes I have this problem with my art and writing, when it starts to feel more like work than play.

But play is actually a vital need for us. As in something we need to have plenty of in order to thrive.

We need to do things for fun, just because they’re fun.

Why do we need play?

  • Play frees our minds, allows us to explore and come up with ideas. It breaks down the boundaries in which we usually contain ourselves, our creativity, and our dreams. Lack of play numbs us to possibility.
  • It keeps us young and happy, in a state where we can still feel wonder and excitement. Without play, we become jaded, cynical, and super stuck. Like stuck in those stupid black dots on Candyland stuck.
  • We learn a lot faster and more effectively when we play than when we try to stuff out brains full of dull information.

And if our need for play isn’t met? Our brain finds others ways to check out. For me, this means making (and eating) a zillion chocolate chip cookies, flushing hours down the Pinterest drain, Facebooking, or going on a “book binge”. Not that there’s a problem with reading. I love it. But when I read a 925 page book in five days even when I know I need something else, that’s no good.

We need to laugh. We need laughter and silliness like we need sunshine. Technically, we can survive without it, but we can never thrive without it.

Think of how children play.

Children don’t play just to pass the time. Kids play because they’re learning. They’re figuring things out. It’s their work, and work and play is all the same to them until they’re told that they need to stop playing and do something productive.

How do we know we need to play?

When I need play, I feel pissy, tired, cynical, unfocused, and man, do I waste time.

It might be different for you. You might feel depressed, numb, overworked, or exhausted. You might push through that exhaustion until you’re good and burned out. You might work so hard that you don’t notice how wiped out you feel.

Take some time to play!

Play is a HUGE need of mine, but I have a habit of turning something I do for play into something I “should” do. That “should” is a toughie for me. I’m a go-getter, but I burned out before I can really accomplish anything. It sucks. I’m a perfectionist and if I’m not perfect at something, I get discouraged and beat myself up really fast. I’m working on it.

But trying to go through life without stopping to play is like driving a car after the tire’s blown out because you don’t want to stop and change it. In the long run, you’re going to save a lot of time and headache if you just stop and change the damn tire. In your life, you’ll be a lot happier and more productive overall if you take the time to play when you need to.

So come up with 5 things that you do just for fun, and these should be things that you truly enjoy (not just mindless activities you do when you’re stuck or bored [cough cough, Facebook]) and things that accomplish absolutely nothing but having fun.

And do at least one this week, with no strings or “should” attached.

Watch out for “should”. I can ruin any fun thing with a “should”. If I go to the zoo or a farmer’s market or something, I think I “should” be taking artsy photos, sketching, scribbling things in my notebook, finding the perfect purple string beans that will turn my body into a perfectly-operating machine. Nothing kills fun faster than a should.

So, five things, my friend.

I’ll go first:

  1. Hooping. Oh hooping, my life saver right now.
  2. Goofing around with friends for no reason at all.
  3. Making art I don’t intend to sell.
  4. Going to farmer’s markets and summer festivals.
  5. Riding horses.

What do you to for play? Share in the comments or on my Facebook page!

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  1. Leave a Reply

    Holly Worton
    June 16, 2014

    Great post, and a much-needed reminder for me! I am good at taking time off on the weekends, but I don’t always play. Often I just rest and recharge…and then feel guilty for not doing something more fun! I have been telling myself that rest is what’s needed.

    However, I would like more play! Five things:
    1. Go on a long walk in the woods.
    2. Take a bath with a good book that’s not business-related.
    3. Play with my plants in the garden: plant new things, clean up the weeds, etc.
    4. Go to the gym. Yes, I consider that play. It would be even better if it had a steam room, but it’s good enough as it is.
    5. Paint

    Thanks for making me think! :)

  2. Leave a Reply

    Jacqueline Gates
    June 16, 2014

    Isn’t it sad that play-time … like naps … kinda gets sidelined in our effort to be ‘grown-up’? And usually, we only realize the folly of that thought when we end up surviving rather than thriving and we wonder what-the-hell happened!
    “We need laughter and silliness like we need sunshine. Technically, we can survive without it, but we can never thrive without it.” Words of wisdom right there.

    Thank you for the reminder. I’m off to go play in the thrift store and then spend some delicious hours upcycling whatever I find!

    the goddess known as Jacqui

  3. Leave a Reply

    June 18, 2014

    1. Walking in creeks
    2. Fun day-trips
    3. Going to the market
    4. Goofing off with friends
    5. Playing with my cat, Arlo.

    Thanks for the post! I am a big fan of play, but I need reminders!

  4. Leave a Reply

    Julie Rowlands
    June 26, 2014

    Why is it that when we grow up we ‘should’ have stopped playing? You are so right! thanks for the reminder!
    My list
    have a swing
    singing out loud with the ipod on
    walking in the park with my wee dog
    hand sewing or patchwork
    Riding my bike

  5. Leave a Reply

    June 28, 2014

    Loving everyone’s lists! Mine is
    1) Dancing
    2) Playing with my kids
    3) drawing (badly)
    4) walking
    5) crochet

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