I am currently facilitating an Artist’s Way group and one of the themes that continues to emerge from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way which serves as our text is making time for “play”. The exercises that we have been engaging in often include one that has all of us thinking about what we would do if a job or life’s circumstances provided us with amble time to do what we want. We have been really taking time to talk about this, especially all of the things that we feel we must do, often based on some kind of outside approval (our children, our job, our families, our friends) but not enough on our own desires.
In Scott Barry Kaufman’s and Carolyn Gregorie’s book, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, they list “imaginative play” as one of the Ten Things Highly Creative People Do Differently. They share that research has proven that “imaginative play” is important to creativity in a variety of areas including science, technology, writing, music, and the visual arts. Play contributes to a “flexible brain” activity, which is “primed for creative thinking and problem solving”.
We live in a world where work and being “responsible” often moves discourages us from making time to relax and “play” freeing our minds for creativity and innovation. As the self-care movement continues to take hold, we should consider where we are short-changing ourselves with including more “play” into our lives.
One thing is understanding how play benefits us as adults. HelpGuide.org lists the following as benefits of play for adults:
Helps Relieve Stress. “Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.”
Improves brain function. “Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.”
Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. “You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems.”
Improve relationships and your connection to others. “Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to include a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.”
Keep you feeling young and energetic. “Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.”
Now that you know how play can help you and enhance your creativity….here are some steps from the Mayo Clinic that can help you bring back a sense of play to your life:
• Schedule time for a hobby. “Always wanted to learn woodworking? Love gardening? Make time to do the things you enjoy. But make a point to find joy in the process, and not just focus on the end product.”
• Enlist social support. “Doing fun things with others is a key aspect of playfulness. Perhaps you'd love to join an adult soccer league. Or maybe a bird-watching club is more to your liking. Or, maybe you just like to meet a close friend for coffee to talk about life.”
• Play games. “According to one study, people averaged about 2,000 more steps a day when they started playing a mobile app game that used the device's GPS, rewarding players for finding objects in different places. You can create games in your nondigital life, too. Try racing people on the escalator while taking the stairs. Or pass the time on a car trip by playing a game of I spy.”
• Visit a park or playground. “Getting out in nature can improve your mood and can be a fun social activity. And there's no such thing as being too old for playing outdoors.”
• Stop and smell the roses.” Playful people tend to be those who take the time to appreciate beauty in the world. Practice mindfulness and catch a snowflake on your tongue, notice the changing leaves and how they look, feel or smell this fall, or allow yourself to jump in a puddle during the next rain shower (rain boots optional).”
Also, consider making a list of things you love to do or once enjoyed. Each week, make a goal to do one thing on that list and schedule time to do it. Play time isn’t a waste of time, when you reap the benefits of how it can help you creatively.
What kinds of activities do you engage in for play? How has it helped you creativity?
Sources: The Benefits of Play for Adults (HelpGuide.org) and 5 ways to bring play back into your life (The Mayo Clinic).