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A Healthy Dose of Play

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Play for adults is like an emotional shower. It refreshes. Remember when your friends used to show up at your door and ask your parents if you could "come out and play?" As children we lived to play and not a day went by without it.

Play for adults is like an emotional shower. It refreshes.Remember when your friends used to show up at your door and ask your parents if you could “come out and play?” As children we lived to play and not a day went by without it. Today, as adults, we don’t live to play, but may benefit if we play to live.

“Adults think play is for kids but, in fact, play for adults is like an emotional shower. It refreshes. It’s like a re-birth. Play gets your emotions into shape,” said Toronto psychologist David Factor in a recent interview for canoe.ca. Factor, who is a stand-up comic in his spare time, says play helps people bond with each other and has many therapeutic effects.

Many of us have experienced, or at least witnessed, how a bond is formed between sports teammates. I play baseball and enjoy belonging to a group and having an excuse to run around and, for an hour or so, think of nothing beyond catching and hitting a baseball. Skiing is a great example of play. Who can worry about bills or work deadlines when they’re floating over white powder?

Another play area is the arts. There’s no reason why our childhood days of arts, crafts, and choir should not continue somehow. According to a recent Swedish study, attendance at cultural events, reading, and taking an active role in music can help you live longer.

I can attest to the benefits of playing music. I recently decided, with no previous music reading or playing experience, to play the violin. Some people laughed at the idea and I do feel a bit funny being the only student over three feet tall attending lessons at my local community centre. But I have rediscovered a kind of playtime that I have not known since I was under three feet tall! Baseball is great, and I love skiing, but these seasons come and go. With my violin, I can escape to playland whenever I want to - lost in a world where time slips away and my full concentration is on the present moment. It may not be fun for the neighbours, but it’s pure fun, and a real break from the day, for me. If you don’t want to play an instrument, try listening to the stereo or enjoying a live concert.

Read a good book, play scrabble, or chase kids around on the front lawn - while there is no hard data to suggest that any of this playfulness is as vital for adults as it is for children, there’s also no reason to believe that it isn’t. We know that physical activity, creating, bonding, building skills, laughing and feeling joy are good for us, and play can include any or all of these. The most obvious common denominator in the play I’ve witnessed and experienced is the wonderful effect of being in the moment. I believe it is in this present moment awareness that we receive the healthful benefits of play. When we’re in the moment we are receiving a true break from whatever is usually on our minds because we are experiencing with our hearts.

Add some play to your day. It has much to offer in the way of health and as a way of life.

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