When was the last time you bought a LEGO set and put the time aside to build it? How about the last time you decided to make something out to Plasticine? As we get older, the things that are fun to us slowly change and the amount of time spent working increases. Time is precious and with demands from employment increasing year on year, something has to give.
What is important to remember is that you need to strike a balance between work and play. The importance and effect of play has come into the limelight in recent years. Playing is a thing that is inherent to humans, and according to research professor Peter Gray, it is inherently lined with how we evolved;
“Play primarily evolved to teach children all kinds of skills, and its extension into adulthood may have helped to build cooperation and sharing among hunter-gathers beyond the level that would naturally exist in a dominance-seeking species.”
The social benefits of play are also great. Regularly meeting up inside or outside of work and engaging in an activity greatly promotes cooperation and interaction between people. The nature of playing something creates a common link between people that eliminates the need for awkward interactions and trying to think of conversation. We are all focused on the game and therefore have common ground. Doctor Bowen White, a founding member of the National Institute of Play comments on this idea of the social side of play.
“Play helps us connect with other people because we are open in a way that allows them to feel, maybe, this is a safe person to be with and maybe even fun to be around.”
Stress is a major factor in many people lives. Whether it is from work, social pressure or personal matters, many people in today’s society experience the effects of stress one way or another. However, by introducing an element of play in your everyday life, the effects of stress are potentially decreased. Dr. Bowen White again says that;
‘Play should feel good…it has the opposite effect on the body as stress. Play often leads to laughter, which has been linked to decreased stress and inflammation and may improve vascular health’.
Productivity is a word that is being heavily associated with play in today’s world. Companies are realising the importance of creating a playful and energetic environment in order to encourage play and eliminate areas of stress. Google is one of the main trailblazers of this idea, creating an office that contains things such as a slide between floors, beach hut themed meeting rooms, and a policy of allowing you to bring your pet to work. Elements like these promote a safe feeling environment that naturally leads to wanting to play and interact with your environment.
The power of play is one that has the potential to completely transform your life, whether it is implemented as a stress reliever, a motivator or as a way to boost confidence. So if at the moment you don’t give yourself an opportunity to build that LEGO set, or sculpt with Plasticine, maybe put some time aside to allow for that chance to just play.