3 Ways to Have a Happier, More Play-Full 2018
Many of us think of the new year as a clean slate, a time to ponder changes we can make to impact our lives in a meaningful way. As you delve into your own experience and consider your options, I encourage you to examine the one area that can have real and lasting physical, mental, social and emotional benefits to multiple aspects of our lives —play! That’s right. Adding more play to our lives (and I mean the lives of BOTH kids and adults!) is enriching and can go a long way toward making us happier.
Here are my three personal goals for a more play-full year:
1. Create healthy play menus for my children
Just as some of us create enticing food menus for each week, we can concoct weekly play menus with themed play nights and activities. It is easy to plan a puzzle night, game night, baking night, or a crafting night. Or choose to make cooking itself part of playtime by engaging children in themed cooking nights—taco night, pizza night, breakfast-for-dinner night, dumpling night, and so many more delicious options! We schedule so many aspects of our lives— it’s important to remember to pencil in time for family fun, too!
2. Let my kids devise their own way to play
I’ve actually been so concerned that my youngest two children will resort to technology whenever they have downtime, that I have created another unanticipated problem! I have made myself central to and involved in orchestrating their entertainment, stepping in to facilitate their activities. So although I have avoided technology overuse, I have instead impeded their ability to fill their own blank canvases with nothing but their imaginations. They are now depending on me to fill the void, and not developing the critical skills to devise their own solutions and build confidence and self sufficiency. My goal for 2018 is to catch myself when I am about to step in and “give them the answer,” and gently push them to invent their own solutions. It won’t be easy, because they are well conditioned to depend on me to do the hard work for them and remain central and a cheerleader throughout their fun. But I now see that I’m not doing them any favors and in fact, actually hurting their ability to develop into independent adults. They need to learn for themselves how to be masters of their own lives and discover solutions to their problems.
3. Play MY way
The more I have learned about the power of play, the more I understand that it’s not just for kids. It’s for LIFE! Adults, as well as children, can both use more play in their lives. It’s essential to happiness and well-being. And that’s why I’m determined to practice what I preach and inject more play into my own life. About a year ago I made the shift from listening to the news while driving to and from work to educational and inspirational podcasts. I felt this was a big step forward, in that I was taking time that had been serving no good end (and in fact was depressing me) and now was using it productively to better myself and then use that knowledge to connect more deeply with others.
But what began as a joyful pursuit began to change, as over time I felt pressure to listen to the many new podcasts appearing daily on my phone. Suddenly I was feeling intense stress to listen to all of them and I had FOMO (fear of missing out). Podcast listening was becoming a performance goal and pressure. Additionally, after listening to a podcast I realized that although I felt informed and knowledgeable and often even enlightened, my mind felt full and heavy—as if I had just come out of a college lecture. I realized that in listening to podcasts I never ruminated and ideated, just listened. And I was feeling closed off and stifled from my own creative energy.
Around this same time we were talking quite a bit about play in our office and what made all of us happiest as children. And I realized that one of those things for me was music. I grew up a musician and songwriter and at one point even had professional aspirations. But somehow over the years I replaced that passion for music with a passion for academic performance. As an experiment, I decided to join Spotify and replace the podcasts I listened to on my commute with a playlist I created featuring some of my favorite songs and artists.
I can’t even begin to tell you how LIFE-ALTERING this small change was for me! Listening to certain songs gave me a sense of freedom and expansiveness that I had forgotten existed. It somehow renewed my energy, made me feel exhilarated, and inspired a multitude of new ideas and creative insights that would have never sprung up while listening to someone talk on a podcast. I realized how desperately I needed that time to let my brain wander and PLAY with my own ideas. Tapping back into one of my true passions has brought tremendous joy back into my life. And feeling so uplifted and joyful has naturally helped make me a better mother, wife, and designer. With such a monumental change coming from such a small action, I’m intent on finding other little ways to introduce moments of play into my day. I hope you will, too.
These are my personal play goals for 2018. What are you and your family intending to do when it comes to play and creating meaningful memories this coming year? Share your thoughts on our Facebook and Instagram! Use #TakeBackChildhood. Here’s to a play-full 2018!