Do You Need a Prescription for Play?
Play is of one of Potentia’s core tenants of true health.
It is a crucial component to your well-being. I actually prescribe play to my clients on a regular basis because many need permission to play. In our culture, we have had the joy of play shamed, guilted, pained, busied, spent, devalued, and worked out of us.
Cutting play out of our awake time is killing us – turning us towards the zombie life: numbed out, detached, exhausted, sick, in pain, and stuck.
As you consider (re) defining health in your life, it is time to bring back play into your life in a way that is a sustained practice. At the Bass-Ching household, things have been full of a lot of life but not enough play. So to mix things up and to honor of my amazingly supportive husband, I declared Saturday “International Gavin Day”. I have not received all the details yet for his day but he hinted at a family adventure, good food and naps. Count me in!
Play has not always come easy for me. For so long, play felt to me like a luxury or a sign of slacking. Play often seemed uncool and not put together. Perfectionism beat the heck of my desire for spontaneous or planned play. Making space to play is often still vulnerable because I have to walk away from my to-do lists and internal shoulds that can get loud when I am working too much.
My passion for play was rekindled when I learned about Gary Landreth, PhD. His work taught me play is the primary language for kids and therefore an important means for doing therapy with children. In his landmark textbook Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship he defines child-centered play therapy (his unique theoretical approach) as:
- A dynamic interpersonal relationship between a child (or person of any age) and a therapist trained in play therapy procedures who provides selected play materials and facilitates the development of a safe relationship for the child (or person of any age) to fully express and explore self (feelings, thoughts, experiences, and behaviors) through play, the child’s natural medium of communication, for optimal growth and development. (p. 16)
It was Dr. Landreth’s approach that inspired how I wanted to use play with my kids. When I began to get on their level to understand them through their primary language of play, I discovered parts of my soul that had been tucked away during my workaholic years. As my play passion was rekindled, my desire for nature, creativity, music, books came rushing to me like a glorious – and a bit overwhelming – wave.
So what is the importance of play for all ages? Reading Stuart Brown, MD‘s book Play:How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, where he uncovers the biology of play, the importance of play and how we are making ourselves sick by eliminating play from our lives, inspired me even further to step up my own play time so I could sustain all the passions I am juggling in my life right now.
“The opposite of play is not work. It is depression.”- Stuart Brown, MD Tweet this
Dr. Brown defines play as:
- Apparently purposeless (done for it’s own sake) – Who does anything purposeless these days?
- Voluntary – Do you allow enough margin in your lives to have space to do something you choose to do verses feel like you have to do?
- Inherently attractive – Boredom is squashed and our brain chemistry is supported when we do something that is fun, elicits laughter and excitement.
- Free of time constraints – When you are in the zone of play, you lose track of time. Sometimes this may even involve your work – when you are in the zone of your passion.
- Causing diminished consciousness of self – Play is a super power against the comparison game and worrying what other people think. You are able to be fully present and in the moment. Amazing. Play takes away feeling self-conscious. But these days, I see so many people not playing for fear of not being cool or of not doing it “right”.
- Improvisational – Rigidity melts away and we sink into a free space of chance and spontaneity verses following the rules. There is no room for unhealthy perfection in this space! Play is also the space I see my kids work through issues in their own time and way. Instead of just being told, they play it out. Play is a crucial part of the healing and problem solving process for all ages.
- Desired for continuation – Fun wants to be continued. Who does not want to continue times of laughter, creating, dreaming, connecting, making, moving, competing (for those who enjoy competition) and dancing?
Play is not a luxury. It is a necessity to your well-being. Tweet this
Dr. Brown further notes in his book the best way to rekindle your sense of play is to go back and reflect on times in your life when something you did led to totally consuming enjoyment, involvement where you are totally present, and a desire to doing it again and again.
Cutting out play is cutting out a major support to your immune system for your mind, body, and soul. But be warned: checking in with your play story can be triggering and/or lead to major life-shifts that may stretch and strain your personal and professional relationships. Reach out for some specialized support as needed to help you bench play in your life.
“Remember the feeling of true play, and let that be your guiding star. You do not have to become irresponsible or walk away from your job and your family to find that feeling again. If you make the emotion of play your north star, you will find a true and successful course through life, in in which work and play are bound together.” Stuart Brown, MD
Play is where my most creative ideas occur; my mental blocks get unstuck, and I get clarity and purpose. Play is a now non-negotiable for me to live out my calling and for my own physical and emotional well-being. I just have to recalibrate this value regularly as the trap of busyness can be slick and seductive.
Need some inspiration to play? Here is some via my son…
and also from the ever hilarious and play master, Jimmy Fallon:
——–What is written on your prescription for play? What memories do you have as a child of play as defined by Dr. Brown? Does play excite you or repel you?
Cheering you on from the playground-