Forgotten Play


This is just very important. It’s something which makes you smarter, creative, sociable, healthier and happier. And we adults used to have this much more, and as we age, we tend to lose it.

It’s a playful mind.

As a person with an education background, I’ve read about and seen many plays of children. What I was not so familiar with was the play of adults, and a book I recently finished pointed out the importance of it, which blew my mind.

The book is called “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” (Stuart Brown, 2009). As usual, I will share some of my Kindle’s highlights from this book,  to explain (1) What this book is about, (2) What play does, (3) What non-play does, (4) what is play, and (5) how adults can exercise play.

(1). What this book is about

  • ULTIMATELY, THIS BOOK is about understanding the role of play and using it to find and express our own core truths. It is about learning to harness a force that has been built into us through millions of years of evolution, a force that allows us to both discover our most essential selves and enlarge our world.

(2). What play does

  • I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life.
  • …there is a strong positive link between brain size and playfulness for mammals in general.
  • …It shapes the brain and makes animals smarter and more adaptable. In higher animals, it fosters empathy and makes possible complex social groups. For us, play lies at the core of creativity and innovation.
  • Many studies have demonstrated that people who continue to play games, who continue to explore and learn throughout life, are not only much less prone to dementia and other neurological problems, but are also less likely to get heart disease and other afflictions that seem like they have nothing to do with the brain.

(3). What non-play does

  • when play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become anhedonic, or incapable of feeling sustained pleasure. There is laboratory evidence that there is a play deficit much like the well-documented sleep deficit.
  • When we stop playing, we stop developing, and when that happens, the laws of entropy take over—things fall apart.
  • …the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression

(4). What is Play

  • …the definition of play: an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.
  • It has evolved over eons in many animal species to promote survival. 
  • At some point as we get older, however, we are made to feel guilty for playing.
  • Sometimes the best way to get the feel of a complicated subject is to just play with it. That’s why kids often learn computer systems faster than adults—they aren’t afraid to just try stuff out and see what works, whereas adults worry that they will do something wrong. 
  • …authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others.
  • Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.

(5). How adults can exercise play

  • A great exercise that I often used for both kids and adults was to ask them to visualize their lives five or ten years in the future, focusing not on whether they want to be a lawyer or be rich, but instead on what they might be doing that would make them really happy and excited. This itself is a kind of imaginative play.
  • Allow yourself to be abundant in your creativity, at first not making judgments about what you think, feel, or do. Simply play with your ideas, with how you do things. When you are stuck, try imagining fifty “impossible” solutions and then let yourself throw out forty-five. 
  • To really regain play in your life you will need to take a journey back into the past to help create avenues for play that work for you in the present. 
  • Every day, everywhere, there are opportunities to find play: throw a tennis ball for a dog; pull string in front of a kitten; browse in a bookstore. Here’s an old piece of advice that is trite but true: stop and smell the flowers.
  • Give yourself permission to be playful, to be a beginner
  • When looking for play that really works for you, the easiest way to find what works is to experience what’s fun.
  • One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move. Take a walk, do jumping jacks, throw a ball for the dog. Motion is perhaps the most basic form of play. 

——————-(Selected highlights from the book “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” (Stuart Brown, 2009)——————-

This book obviously spurred my mind, which was losing the muscle of play I used to have. To learn more about play, I started taking an online course (EXPLORING PLAY: The University of Sheffield). So far, however, it looks like the course is mainly focusing on children’s play, not the one of adults. But I will PLAY with this course a little bit more to see how it goes. Here is a nice video introduced in this course, regarding the cild’s right to play.

【This Is Me : Article 31 and a Child’s Right to Play (International Play Association (IPA World))】

I also liked the song used in this video, so I checked it with my phone application Shazam (I love this app!) to track what song it is. Then voila!, the video of this song shows playful scene and dream for adults (great choice!)

【Imagine Dragons – On Top Of The World (Official Music Video)】

On the other hand, this topic reminded me of the phrase from the book “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, where a middle school kid said to his nerdy friend “Now that we are in the middle school, we don’t use the word ‘play’ but we use ‘hang out’.”

It seems we are cultivating the culture of not allowing adults to play, so I will try to recover my playful mind.

Well, are you playing frequently? What was the recent play you did as an adult? If not, maybe it’s time to regain it.

This time, I learned that:

Play might seem purposeless therefore not so welcomed by adults, but that’s the nature of play, which actually makes us smarter, more creative, sociable, healthier and happier. Overall, it’s fun, so we adults have to get it back by exercising on a daily basis.

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One thought on “Forgotten Play

  1. Pingback: Play, Art and Innovation | MD NO SUSUME

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