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    The Benefits of Play

    When was the last time you got out to play?  I mean really play? No goal directed or structured activity; no intentions in mind…Just simple play for the sake of fun?  
    Play is a major component in our lives, not only as children, but also as adults.  To name a few advantages, play teaches social skills, creativity, life skills, and it increases cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being.  Yet somewhere between childhood and adulthood the majority of adults have stopped playing.
    As adults, our schedules can become busy with family, work, and additional commitments, and not enough time is left for good old-fashioned playtime.  The short amount of time that may be available is spent in front of televisions, computers, or handheld electronics.
    Play is not about goofing off, being lazy, or unproductive.  Play enhances creativity and flexibility; it allows physical activity, a chance to get outdoors, and serves as an opportunity to disconnect from devices and from daily life stressors such as work.  
    Psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Brown, and founder of the National Institute of Play discusses play as being something which provides pleasure and understanding, and can strengthen our mind, body, and spirit.  Think of play as an opportunity to be in the moment, and not worry about time, schedules, routines, or an end goal. For children, it may look like a game of hide and seek, making bow and arrows out of broken tree branches, or jumping in a puddle of mud.  For adults, it may look like a night out, a game of poker or golf, or simply sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Play is very much like self-care; it is as unique as we are, and evolves over time. Like self-care, play can help with anxiety and depressive symptoms.  Taking time away from everyday stressors allows the body to rejuvenate, and play allows opportunities for face-to-face social interactions, enhances productivity, and can provide healing.
    Play is something that can be utilized at work, at home, with friends, and family and loved ones.  A few examples include, playing cards with coworkers on a lunch break, taking a walk outside, or playing a game with your significant other to increase intimacy.  Have your children take the lead during a game of hide and seek. Playing games with children is always a great opportunity to let go of the rigidity of schedules and be in the moment.  Children have a fantastic capacity to imagine things out of the box, beyond times and scheduling, and we could all use a bit of childlike creativity and freedom.
    Engaging in tactile activities that allow us to be more physical and get outside can assist in the management of anxiety and depressive symptoms.  Activities such as gardening, biking, running, playing on the trampoline (my personal favourite) are a few ways to play and be physical. Most importantly, it allows us to disconnect from the sensory overload that can come with social media.  Remind yourselves to take daily opportunities to play. After all, it is proven to help your mental, physical, social, and emotional health. So put down your phones…shut off the electronics…and go PLAY!

    You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation • Plato

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