If you were born prior to the year 2000 chances are you had a playful childhood. After the new millennium, things took a bit of a turn and there’s a whole new generation of youth that has spent their early years staring at a screen or connected to a virtual world. Either way, we all grow up. And one of the casualties of growing up often seems to be the inner child. After all, adulthood is associated with responsibility, caring for others, developing careers, networking, acquisitions, important decisions, serious paperwork, tight schedules, daily stress and so on…
So what happens to the inner child once we reach the adult stage? Does it just fade away? Does it get buried under paperwork? Or is it that we simply no longer have time to foster it?
I pondered these questions as of late, realizing how exhilarating being playful truly is and how much I miss it. If you have old homemade movies or family memories from your childhood, you probably remember the laughter and excitement that accompanies playtime and family activities. It’s true that as a child you don’t really have other worries which helps in promoting a general state of happiness, given of course that you have a happy home, at least one loving parent and 3 meals per day. Nevertheless, the ability to spontaneously play is innate in both humans and animals. We come into this world as playful creatures.
So why not continue throughout our lives? Are we afraid it wouldn’t be socially accepted? It’s true that a 40 year old making sand castles at a kid’s playground could be perceived as strange, perhaps even threatening, or a bunch of suits using children’s swings at the park might definitely set off some alarms. But not all forms of playfulness would be perceived as such. In fact, the more people play together the more accepted it is.
And what if I told you that playfulness was essential, at least to some degree, to our actual happiness and even our health. By making a conscious choice to remain playful and to nurture the inner child we can raise our energy levels, decompress from stressful situations, promote genuine laughter and exhilaration that in turn benefit our overall well-being, promote imagination and creativity and above all turn back the clock by remaining youthful. And just to be clear, I do mean youthful and not immature or irresponsible. All in all, an infusion of playfulness can add balance to out otherwise hectic and serious grownup lives.
“Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor”. ~Stuart Brown
But how can we go about it without looking crazy, you might ask. Here are a few ideas:
Playing with pets
I have two adorable cats that absolutely crave playtime! I genuinely enjoy playing tag and hide and seek with them on a daily basis. We also play fetch, cuddle, wrestle and so on. They give me a great excuse to play play play and reward me with affection and purring. Having a dog would probably be very similar with possibly more running involved.
Playing with children
If you have children, you pretty much have no excuse not to play! You can even sit in that kiddie playground all day long and make sand castles if that makes you happy. Definitely playing with toys, making up stories to enact, legos, hide and seek, you name it. Having kids is like having a super VIP pass for at least 10 years of playtime where everything goes. You can also bring more kids and parents into the fun to amplify the experience. If you haven’t already, simply learn to enjoy it. Your inner child will be grateful.
Playing with your friends
Remember that at the adult stage, the secret is in numbers. All it takes is 3-4 like minded individuals. One person running around the city with a water gun might seem loco but a couple of friends spraying each other at the park on a hot summer day, regardless of their age is another story. So make time for play! Invite your friends and get moving.
Getting colleagues involved
It’s been proven that playful team building activities have a great impact on company team work and offer employees a way to unwind and connect. Speak to your boss and suggest playful activities everyone will enjoy. Chances are your colleagues will be grateful.
Community events & activities
In most cities around the world there’s a club for pretty much anything, including an array of games. Make sure to also seek out community events and activities. I’m sure that if they haven’t come up with a “hike&seekathalon” already, they surely will. In all seriousness, check out local treasure hunts, the Geekfest, laser tag establishments and board game pubs and cafes. Some of the funnest activities might be hiding in plain sight.
Organize family reunions
The bigger the family the better. Renting a cottage by the lake or pool can be great as well. The more comfortable you are with the people around you the more likely it is that your inner child will thrive. Make sure to plan some playful activities that everyone can partake in and jut let loose.
“Everybody’s 12 years old in an apple orchard”. ~Rachael Ray
Go on a playful couple’s getaway
Rent a tree house for the weekend. No one can resist their inner child in a tree house. That’s simply a fact!
These are just a couple of examples… With a little imagination I’m sure you’ll come up with tons of original ideas. Do share if you do!
When it comes to playfulness, remember that it once came naturally and that it can do so again. As I already mentioned, I’m not advocating for not wanting to grow up or being irresponsible but merely taking a time-out every once in a while to foster your inner child and to reap its many benefits!
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play”. ~Friedrich Nietzsche