PLAY Isn’t Just for Kids


What if I told you there was an elixir that could relieve your stress, improve your relationships, stimulate your creativity, give you a flood of endorphins and boost your brain function?  Are you wondering how there can be one remedy with such a plethora of positive benefits? This well-kept secret is something we have all spent thousands of hours doing: the simple act of playing.

Play is unrestrained activity where you are engaged in what you want to do, rather than what you are obligated to do. Play elicits that feeling of freedom when you lose all sense of time, relieving you of life’s aggravations and allowing your mind to wander, unencumbered. Dr. Stewart Brown, a pioneer researcher of play and the founder of the National Institute of Play in California, states, “When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality.” Children instinctively seek out play, which is vital for their healthy development. Play helps them to figure out who they are and to practice life skills. Turns out that play is also crucial for adult well-being.

Play relieves stress by allowing your brain to relax and forget about your worries. Laughter and having fun release endorphins, which give you that natural high and lift your mood. Allowing your brain to take a break is also a great strategy for solving problems. When your mind is unburdened, new ideas materialize, solutions present themselves and fresh insights appear. These breakthrough thoughts open the door to new possibilities and provide a surge of optimism.

It may seem counterintuitive to integrate play at work, but  taking a break to refresh can increase workplace productivity, improve morale and enhance coworker camaraderie. Joking around with colleagues or participating in a daily game or contest lightens the mood and makes mundane activities go by more quickly. Bring a puzzle to work for 10-minute breaks from monotonous tasks, have a Friday Sudoku or word game contest or share a joke of the day before meetings begin. Having more fun at work can lead to increased job satisfaction, better performance, fewer absences and, potentially, higher profits.

Play improves relationships in all areas of your life. It is essential for creating a bond with your children. Laughing with friends creates shared experiences, and humor can even keep intimate relationships exciting. A playful mood encourages intimacy, as you trust your partner with your silly side that not everyone sees. Humor in almost any situation can soften the mood, put people at ease and even help heal past resentments.

Puzzle challenges improve your brain function and are convenient, since they can be done on your own. Zoning out in front of the TV or computer doesn’t count as play, even though they are relaxing activities. Some may argue that computer games are the best way to forget about whatever is vexing you, but besides being addictive, they don’t stimulate and rejuvenate your brain in the same way as traditional games and puzzles, especially when played with others.

If you have forgotten how to play, think back on what you enjoyed doing as a child and activities similar to those will likely be just as fun for you now. Did you have Monopoly marathons, construct forts, love climbing at the park or spend hours building sand castles? Find friends who play cards, take a woodworking class or do a ropes course. The next time you are at the beach, go ahead and make a sand castle. If you are completely lost on how to play, a child can lead you to your inner goofy self.

Brian Sutton-Smith, a developmental psychologist and play theorist who was considered one of the field’s foremost scholars before his death in 2015, said, “The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” Play is pure joy and the opposite of that is sadness. Play is the antidote to almost anything that is troubling you. Take 10 minutes today to give yourself a natural boost by dancing to your favorite song, playing catch with your dog or indulging in a crossword puzzle during lunch. I promise that afterwards you will be ready to take on work and responsibilities with renewed energy and optimism.

About the author

Rebecca Reimers Cristol

Rebecca is a Life and Business coach who guides her clients to
find work/life balance, gain clarity and incorporate self-care into
their lives. She is based in Williamsburg and can be found at