Ever wonder what your therapists do when you’re not around? This day, I caught them playing! And as the head of the practice, I wholeheartedly support that! Why, you ask? Because play is an important part of good mental health!
Benefits of Play on Mental Wellness
- Burns Off Stress. Dot-com companies have known for years the value of a fun, creative office. Just take a look inside the Google offices. Studies show that play releases the feel-good chemicals in our brains that help improve our mood and decreases the stress-related chemicals of norepineprine and cortisol.
- Increases Creativity. One of those feel-good chemicals, serotonin, stimultes creativity. So does being relaxed and feeling playful. In addition, it is easier to learn when you are relaxed and having fun. How many of late Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers learned from Schoolhouse Rock? Conjunction Junction, what’s your… ahem.
- Improve Cognitive Function. Playing games like chess, backgammon, or solving puzzles show benefits to the prefrontal cortex of your brain (associated with rational thinking and judgement) and the hippocampus (associated with memory).
- Improved Socialization. Playing with others helps to foster deeper relationships, can relieve tension, fosters empathy, and teaches or enhances social skills.
Researchers who study play define it this way: Play is often defined as activity done for its own sake, characterized by means rather than ends (the process is more important than any end point or goal), flexibility (objects are put in new combinations or roles are acted out in new ways), and positive affect (children often smile, laugh, and say they enjoy it). See this article for more information. Once could consider a goal of winning a game as play, depending on the level of stress the desire to wine creates. Here are some tips of bringing more play into your life:
- Make Time for Play. Pen play into your calendar. Make sure you stick to your schedule.
- Make Time for Hobbies. Or restart long-forgotten hobbies. These are activites that not only absorb your attention but create enjoyment.
- Invite Others to Play with You. As a general rule, group activities are rated as more enjoyable than solo activities. Schedule a regular game night or join a sports league.
- Invite Children to Play with You. Play is the language of children. Suspend the need to be an adult, and take the lead from your favorite kid.
- Find the Humor. Laughter also releases feel-good chemicals. Don’t watch too much TV, but when you do, make it comedies.
And don’t forget the famous words of George Bernard Shaw: We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
If you need help to improve your mood, contact our office today.