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Learn: The Importance of Play

Planning a four-day getaway to a northern Minnesota State Park led me to the topic of play. After thinking about taking a break from blogging, I wanted nothing more than to blog about taking a break. So from this breezy "office" full of majestic white and red pines, I will offer what I’ve been learning about the importance of play.

What Is Play?

"If its purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it's probably not play," says Stuart Brown, Ph.D. in his TED talk. Brown, a psychiatrist, researcher and founder of the National Institute for Play, asserts that we humans are "designed to play through our whole lifetime." He explains the importance of play in establishing trust, developing problem solving skills, learning self-discipline and adaptability and experiencing happiness.

In his talk, Brown mentions a few types of play, including body play, object play and social play.

Body Play. A regular workout at the gym certainly falls under physical activity, but if you exercise mainly for the purpose of fitness and not "just for the fun of it," it's not play. Go for an evening walk, ride your bike around the block or join a game of tag with your kids. That's body play. In her book Permission to Play, yoga instructor and writer Jill Murphy Long cites the scientifically acknowledged connection between physical activity and "feelings of well-being."

Object Play. On a recent blog post, Brené Brown, Ph.D. (no relation to Stuart Brown), a writer and research professor in the field of social work, recognizes that it's okay to set work aside and putter around her house or edit photos. These activities are her important play. Other forms of object play may involve playing board games, doing puzzles, curating collections, cooking or crafting. Object play helps us learn problem solving.

Social Play. Team sports, book clubs, girls' nights and dinner parties. You get the idea. During social play, along with having fun, we practice self-control. Making time for social connections also contributes to our mental health. The opposite of play, cautions Dr. Stuart Brown, is not work but depression.

Make Play a Part of Every Day

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brené Brown discusses the importance of "letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol of productivity and worth." In order to enjoy valuable play, we must let go of the idea that we're too busy to "waste time." Play is a vital activity, no matter our age.

For me, these northwoods will soon transform from office to playground. I have trails to hike, books to read, games to play and a pontoon boat on which to relax. I have work play to do.

Bemidji Pines

                                  Northwoods pines taken with my iPhone 3GS

 

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