This is the second half of my article on the the book I read:
Play: How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul,written by Doctor Stuart Brown and the founder of the National Institute for Play.
There are two further parts of the book that touched me deeply, they concerned what is non-play and the play and relationships. The first subject I’d like to share concerns “the opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression. If you check out the definition of depression:
Definition: Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply "snap out" of.
You begin to realise that play is as fundamental to happiness in life as almost anything else.
You realise that you can not play and be depressed, it is almost an impossibility. Play, by its very nature is joyful, fun, generally shared with others and requires interest in the activity taking place. Almost the 180 degree opposite from depression.
There is a fascinating article on “The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders" fro Psychology Today, which talks about children are more anxious and depressed than ever before. The link is below:
Where does work come into this, you might ask?
After all, as adults a third of our adult lives are spent at work of some sort or description.
There is a connection between work and play, both require one key element to be present to be successful - creativity. According to Dr Brown “Play is nature's greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties….. When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out….and play at work is essential”
Where companies are beginning to realise the power of play is that play is so closely connected to innovation. The speed of change and innovation in today’s business is astounding. Companies are constantly looking at new creative innovations and play is the key to innovation. As an experiment:
Try sitting in a room with a bunch of people - all silently trying to come up with a slogan for a household product. It can be any product you like. The task is to get people to sit, think, imagine and craft a slogan to sell the product. Most people will find this a complete slog, a drag, depressing even. However, get them to build a storyboard together, using cartoons, shapes, objects or even role-playing and the number of ideas, wacky slogans and group consensus on the best one will quickly emerge. And the task was made easier through play.
The final section of the book concerned relationships and play. Ok, smutty thoughts out of the way for a moment please. Without the various forms of social play, we as adults would find it very difficult to live together. As Dr Brown states… “.... play is the most important element in love” and I agree with him. Successful, long term, mutually agreeable, peered, relationships are based on a number of factors - trust, respect, interest in each other, genuine attachment, and I would say, a degree of fun and play.
If a relationship is to last for longer than the initial lust phase; through the commitment to children phase and into a long term relationship phase, then you both need to learn the art of play, of growing together, of exploring new things, events, scenarios and situations that are pleasant to both of you, in effect you need to spend time together at play. I shared part of this chapter with a friend that was staying with us, just to see if it was just my perception or if there was a consensus. And there was. Even though she comes from a completely different culture, being born a German and brought up for the first half of her life in Germany and is in a different type of long term relationship, she agreed completely with both the sentiment and the meaning. Play is absolutely vital to long term relationships.
In summary if you want to really understand the benefits of play; to you; to your children growing up; at work; in your social life; and in your relationships, or as the title says itself “invigorates the Soul”, then think abotu and encourage play in all aspects of your life.
I leave you with this thought.
“Laughter is the sound of the soul dancing. My soul probably looks like Fred Astaire.”
― Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not FOR SALE
What does your soul look like today?