” We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
-GEORGE B E R N A R D SHAW
I believe we all seek a life well lived. How we each define such is another story. To me, it is a life of balance. Sounds simple yet is much easier said than done. Last month I decided to test my ability to create balance between work and play. I realized in order to lead a fulfilling life, I must make time for both.
Studying the unstructured act of “play” for a month helped me reconnect to my past. Although it may seem like all fun, there was indeed plenty of work involved. When we work too much we’re dull; when we’re all play, we’re slackers. I figured there must be a happy medium, and at this balanced place I found a story that brought everything full circle.
| THE CURRENT LANDSCAPE |
We live in an incredibly stimulating society; one that encourages instant gratification. To solve an ailment, we often opt for the easy solution. When we have a moment to carve out some free time, we often spend it binge watching Netflix or scrolling through social media. These habits only waste our energy rather than gather it through active creativity. As a population, we’ve become workhorses who grind until we reach a point of exhaust. Always curious for a natural solution, I went searching for a way to alleviate any stress or boredom and found relaxation and relief.
Normally I find the beauty in the little things, yet every now and again things can seem dull or flat. Whenever I felt this drab creep in, I recognized it as my trigger to play. Maybe all we truly need is the knowledge that it’s okay to slow down, relax and have some fun. I granted myself permission to play, sans regret, and regained my shiny outlook along with some new knowledge.
| WHAT IS PLAY |
Play is simply the time spent building new knowledge in creative, inventive and imaginative ways. It is an act in which we constantly learn without an end goal in mind. When we’re unbalanced it’s reflected in our total being. Setting aside personal time to be lighthearted helps cultivate positive emotion and allows us to return to our work refreshed. This completely spontaneous and enjoyable process can be extremely useful for anyone hoping to heal, improve his or her well-being and/or productivity.
| BENEFITS |
The truth is if you wish to remain healthy and full of vitality, cultivating a balanced life is the first step. Self-confidence, emotional maturity as well as cognitive skills are just some of the by products of playing. Beyond that, it’s simply fun. If you seek rejuvenation, then incorporating some leisure time could be very beneficial in keeping your life in check.
Maybe you’re interested in increasing your energy or becoming more functional under stress. Maybe you wish to prevent burnout during big projects. Whatever the case may be, there’s a reason why playing could be beneficial for you. I broke it down into three categories to show the effect playing can have on the mind, body and soul:
When we play, we engage in similar behavioral patterns that positively shape the brain. In this mental space, or “flow,” a state in which we become fully absorbed in the process, we have the ability to replace limiting beliefs with positive ones. We also can lower the risk of mental illnesses such as depression or dementia. Similar to meditation, the mind is taken elsewhere, away from the stress and mental chatter. This space creates time for us to restore and heal.
Like our bodies, we must also work our minds to keep them sharp and functioning. It’s proven that we actually learn best in a relaxed and playful state. Using puzzles or brain challengers can help strengthen our minds. By stimulating our imaginations, we adapt and problem solve more efficiently. Unfortunately most of us aren’t programmed to play when we hit roadblocks or stressful situations; however major breakthroughs are possible when we take a break, detach and create some space to play.
| MAV MANTRA |
“What enlivens my mind, relaxes it.”
Physically, play is an active process, one that engages both the mind and body. If it still comes as a surprise, chronic stress is one of the leading causes of illness and disease. Active engagement gets the blood pumping, strengthening the heart and increasing energy levels. This helps to burn off hormones, sugars and fats released into our bloodstream as a result of stress. On top of that, play can also temporarily relieve pain and slow down the aging process.
On the social front, playing with others helps to strengthen our personal ties and keeps them exciting. It can be as simple as sharing laughter together or cultivating a playful state of mind. A playful attitude can help loosen us up, which can be helpful in stressful situations. Lastly, it’s practical for building strong social skills that could come in handy in breaking the ice with a potential new business partner or friend.
| PLAY TIME |
What I personally noticed from my experience was an increased sense of confidence, energy and authenticity. I believe when we connect to our past and hobbies, we tap into our truth and happiness. The three methods of play I experimented with were photography, coloring and play dates.
| WAYS TO PLAY |
Creating opportunities to play is simple when you surround yourself with playful people. However, you can play wherever you are. Here’s a simple list of ways of play; just decide which suits your personality best and try incorporating just one into your daily lifestyle for starters:
On Your Own
- Adult Coloring Books
- DIY Project
- Play With A Pet/Child
- Watch A Comedy
- Hit The Park
- Take A New Route Home
- Learn a New Instrument/Craft
- Join A Gym
- Ping Pong
- Crossword Puzzle
- Read The Funnies
- Joke With A Co-Worker
- Keep A Sketchpad To Doodle
- Afternoon Stroll
- Host Game Night
- Go To A Festival
- Dance Classes
- Join Intramurals/Sports League
- Play Volleyball At The Beach
At the end of the day, life is a beautiful adventure and should be enjoyed as such. Maybe life’s a test or maybe it’s a playground; maybe it’s a combination of both. All I know is that when we play, we’re in the ‘flow.’ Perhaps cultivating this essence in playing can help us in applying it to real life situations, ones where we need to be less rigid; hence the phrase “go with the flow.”
When we play, we reconnect to our truth; for the only true journey is the one within. With this in mind, play is just as essential in our youth as it is in our adult lives. If we play as adults, it encourages further growth. If playing as a child can be seen as the dress rehearsal for adulthood, then can’t playing as adults be a reminder that we are still works in progress? I think once we believe we know it all, we stop learning and evolving. If we stop evolving, we die. Perhaps this is simply the circle of life; we play to mature, we play to stay young.
| PHOTOGRAPHY |
| STYLING + CREATIVE DIRECTION |
| MUSES + SPONSORS |
Thanks to my friends Evan, Austin, Kybl, Alison & Navin for always bringing out the best in me. Thanks to my New York boys for coming out to LA + always reminding me of my roots ~ Bobby, Cooper, Nick, TK.
| SOURCES |