The Benefits of Play as an Adult

A dad and his kid driving down the highway in an illegal vehicle

Remember back when you were a child? Play was a central part of your life. From climbing trees, to coloring, to singing karaoke, play was simply something you did. But as you grew older, playful experiences gradually faded from your schedule. As adult responsibilities accumulated, adult play became a non-existent term. But indulging in playful activities isn’t something just for kids. In fact, adult play is essential for our overall health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, too many of us fail to appreciate all the benefits of play and its potential impact on our lives.

Understandably, many of us are anxious and stressed during recent times. Working from home, fears about the pandemic, and job worries may all be adding to these concerns. As a result, you may not feel much like playing at the current time. But incorporating some adult play into your regular routine can actually do wonders for you. Playful experiences can take your mind off your worries and refocus your attention on something pleasurable. These and many other benefits of play are why you should make time for these vital wellness activities.

A couple tossing around a frisbee
The benefits of play for adults include mental and physical health, plus playing frisbee in open fields.

What Is Play?

Part of the challenges for us as adults is actually defining what play is. We naturally associate play with something children do. Therefore, we may not immediately appreciate what is meant by the term adult play. In essence, play is a process that brings about a state of being that is purposeless, fun, and pleasing. It has no specific goal to be achieved, and it is performed simply for its innate enjoyment. In most cases, play is imaginative and self-directed. And adult play is essential for our own personal health and the health of our relationships.

Understanding this definition of adult play, there are several different types of play to consider. The benefits of play that each offers are noteworthy, and your own personality routinely identifies which ones are more pleasing. For example, play may involve others or may be more self-imaginative. Likewise, you may enjoy more intellectual play like puzzles and games. Or you may rather participate in some type of physical play. Each playful activity may have different levels of appeal. Similarly, each type offers different benefits of play that can enhance your wellness.

The Benefits of Play

For kids, the benefits of play include enhance problem-solving, critical thinking skills, social skills, and others. Play is involved in nearly every aspect of childhood development ranging from physical wellness to emotional intelligence. But many people fail to recognize that adult play offers many of the same advantages. Simply because we become an adult doesn’t mean we no longer have the need for creativity and social talents. In fact, we often rely on these types of skills even more as an adult. And this is where adult play can help us greatly.

Especially in today’s world, one of the greatest benefits of play for adults involves stress management. There is a misconception that just because we have worries that we cannot experience joy. If we have lost our job, we are expected to be anxious and unhappy. Naturally, we may experience these feelings and concerns. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also enjoy something pleasant at the same time. Adult play respects that we all need to enjoy these types of purposeless, joyful activities regularly. And by infusing us with positivity, adult play allows us to better deal with the stresses we are experiencing. This in turn leads to better resilience and capacity to deal with the stress we face.

In addition to better stress management, adult play also boosts our creativity and our social relationships. Play certainly invites our imagination to consider new possibilities. Likewise, it also encourages novelty and spontaneity, which also improves creative problem-solving. And the lighthearted and whimsical attitude that adult provides makes us more appealing to others. A positive attitude and someone who embraces fun is more appealing to others. These represent some of the additional benefits of play as an adult that might otherwise be lacking.

How to Be More Playful

The first step to being more playful is to simply decide that you want more adult play in your life. This sounds easier than it might be form some people. As adults, many of us have become accustomed to assigning a goal or an achievement to every activity. We don’t simply go for a bike ride for fun but instead do it to lose weight. We don’t explore creative writing without some plan to sell the next best-seller. While these activities can certainly be forms of adult play, the goal-directed purpose undermines this. Play is performed simply for the innate enjoyment it provides…no strings attached. To receive the benefits of play, that should be our starting point.

With that in mind, there are several activities that can help you be more playful. For one, surround yourself with others who are whimsical and carefree. As noted, their attitude can be contagious and help you become more playful in the process. You can also revisit childhood memories in defining what types of activities you truly enjoy. If you loved to sing or dance, then this might be an adult play activity to consider. Finally, decide to be more spontaneous while blocking out some “me-time” for yourself. Both commitments can help you make time for adult play and better enjoy the benefits of play in your life.

Play Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Being an adult is a serious task with tremendous responsibility. But simply because adult life is challenging doesn’t mean there’s isn’t any room for play. The benefits of play justify that we make time for novelty, fun, and creativity on a regular basis. Allow yourself to let go and simply do something for the joy that it brings, whatever that may be. In the process, you’ll not only be happier but less stressed and more creative. And in all likelihood, you’ll also find that all the experiences in your life will become richer and more fulfilling.

 

For a more in-depth discussion on the Pillar of Health, check out Ed Kopko’s book, PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success!

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