Why Playing is Important for Your Mental Health

Many psychologists today will disagree with your productivity routine and prescribe playing instead, for both, adults and children. Here is why.

By Jenny Dsouza ~

Why Play is Important for Mental Health Lifeism

We are in the throes of productivity hacks and growth hacks. We live in the age of ASAP and making each and every hour count. We clock in and charge for our time. We are taking fewer and fewer vacation days, and even when we do, we are constantly hooked on our gadgets. It is often said that time is money. But in reality, time is so much more than that.

When was the last time you did nothing at all? Maybe just danced spontaneously to a beat? Took a clay modeling class? Or just picked up a pen and doodle for no reason and lost track of time? Probably a while ago. Taking time to play for both children and adults is critical. It has so many mental health benefits that research continues to discover new advantages of play even today.

During childhood, play provides a way for us to make sense of the world around us. It helps us develop important life skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving, and coping with emotions. As we grow older, play is still an important part of our development. Playing games with friends, exercising, and engaging in hobbies are all ways we can engage in meaningful play.

These days, life can feel exhausting. We usually think of this stress as a negative, and in many ways, it is, but occasionally, it can be beneficial. Stress can make us more alert, help us make decisions more quickly, and even inspire us to work harder. Still, too much of a good thing can get tiring, and if you've ever snapped at the kids, been snappy with your spouse, or felt like you're just not as interested in life as you used to be, you may be suffering from stress-related fatigue.

Benefits Of Play for The Mental Health of Adults

We’ve only recently started to realize the benefits of play for adults. Play, in its simplest form, is enjoyable, but it also has other advantages as well. Play helps us learn how to socialize, cope with stress, and have fewer emotional problems. Play also helps adults have better memory, generate more creative ideas, and deal with the serious stresses that life throws at us.

Adult play is an important part of health and wellness. According to the APA's Healthy Psychology, play is a "form of activity that is fun, spontaneous, enjoyable, and involves little or no expectation of winning or failure." Adult play isn't just about having fun. Play has tremendous physical and emotional benefits, and they are just as important for adults as they are for kids. Play can help adults manage stress, improve cognitive functioning, strengthen relationships, and boost overall happiness.

Over the years, studies have found that engaging in play and leisure activities give people a higher quality of life. Play is associated with longevity, greater vitality, and less depression. Many adults also cite play as one of their most important sources of happiness. Playing helps adults be physically active and more socially active, and it can help adults manage stress better. Playing therapy games may give physical benefits, such as better balance, flexibility, and mental strength. It also makes dealing with day-to-day stressors easier. It also has social benefits, such as helping us feel more connected to others.

Benefits Of Play for The Mental Health of Children

The human brain is pretty amazing. Our brain does more than allows us to think; it takes in information and uses it to make choices, whether choosing between two snacks at snack time, deciding between going to the gym or watching television, hanging out with friends, or finishing homework. Play is an important part of a child's development. It allows children to explore, learn, and develop.

Play is an essential part of child development. From the time we were born, we've used play to grow and develop. But, as often happens in our fast-paced modern world, the play gets pushed aside and forgotten. The benefits of play for children's mental health should not be underestimated. Play helps children develop important skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, socialization, strength, coordination, and self-esteem.

The role of play in a child's development is gaining momentum, with mounting evidence that play is crucial for cognitive, emotional, and social development. Children engage in play to learn how to navigate the world, find order in chaos, and process emotions. Play also acts as a coping strategy, allowing children to work through challenging life events like illness or divorce.

What Are the Other Benefits of Play?

Playing as children or adults has several benefits. And there is nothing more therapeutic than playing with your children, grandchildren or other children in your lives. Here are some benefits of playing for adults as well as children:

Strengthening Relationship

Playing with your kids can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you don't feel like you have the full support of your spouse. Your spouse may not be willing to play with your kids, may not be a good role model, or may just have other priorities that are not compatible with playtime with your children. It's important to remember that play is important to your children's development, and it's vital that you and your spouse set aside time to be with your child without technology or distractions, whether it's through reading, coloring, or playing simple games, set aside time every day to play with your child.

Improve Physical Health

Staying active is good for your health and staying active as a family is even better. Physical play helps kids develop coordination, balance, and motor skills, while mental play lets kids practice problem-solving, reasoning, and social skills. You don't have to sacrifice family time or lose your sanity.

Play keeps our bodies young, thin, and healthy. It strengthens our muscles, bones, and joints and even helps our brains grow. Play improves our ability to think, remember, and communicate. It boosts our creativity, much-needed in today's techno world.

Learning and Experience

Play and activity are important for many reasons. Not only does exercise help kids grow and feel better, and physical activity is one of the most fundamental ways we interact with our environment. Play also enables kids to learn new skills and gain experience in environmental interactions while having fun.

Improve Social Skills

While the play is developmentally important for kids of all ages, it is especially important for toddlers. Play helps develop and improve social skills. From toddlers learning to speak, play helps them practice saying words. Play also helps toddlers practice waiting in line, sharing, taking turns, and problem-solving. Play also helps toddlers make memories as they revisit and re-enact their play experiences.

Safety and Happiness

The core of all activities in a human being is driven by survival. Only when we feel safe, do we think about anything else, especially play. Playing (in children as well as adults) subconsciously tells our brains that we are safe and happy. Letting ourselves feel the pure joy of playing without care also releases a ton of happy hormones in our bodies.

Ideas for playing

Not sure where to start? Here are some simple ideas to get you going with play:

Do nothing

As silly as it may seem, many of us have forgotten how not to be productive. We are always multitasking our way through the day. So, to begin with, take 10 minutes to do absolutely nothing. Just sit there and observe the world around you. Don’t look at your watch or your phone. Just take deep long breaths and relax. This may also seem quite daunting in the beginning but slowly increase the time you spend doing nothing at all. Once you are used to doing nothing for at least 15 minutes, try some of the other activities listed below.

Indulge in Arts & Crafts

The biggest mistake you can make while doing this one is trying to be perfect. Don’t buy that expensive pack of paints just yet. Open any notebook and just let your hand flow freely over the page with a pencil. Feel the satisfaction of just drawing something without worrying about how it looks. Remember, the goal here is not to produce a piece of art, but to have fun just doing it. You can also do this with your children’s art or craft sets. As you start enjoying your playtime, increase it and let your feelings guide you to what to do next.

Dance your cares away

Let me start by saying that you don’t have to be good at it. No one has to see you dance (not even yourself). Don’t even call it dance, if you don’t want to. Just put your fun tune on and let your body move. Close your eyes and just let yourself experience the music. Start with one song and build your way up to it.

If you live in a space where you are not self-conscious, you can also try singing in the same way. Again, it's important to remember that no one is listening, and you are not doing this to be a great singer. You are just letting off some steam and exploring a different side of your personality.

Play is the activity that helps us achieve mental wellness; it gives people the chance to connect, express creativity, and cope with stressors. Play is important for everyone, and it doesn't have to be fancy or involve expensive tools. Play can be simple and enjoyable, and it should be something we readily invite into our lives.


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