Once upon a time I had a serious case of PDS–Play-Deprivation Syndrome.
I was taking myself far too seriously, and I didn’t feel like the person I once was. The freedom of grade-school had disappeared.
I remembered all the sleepovers with friends putting on fashion shows and concerts, re-enacting movies or playing school. The list was endless. As kids we didn’t think twice about getting into character and having pretend names and personas. We were free to create and recreate ourselves.
Do you remember that freedom as a child?
It wasn’t exactly what we were doing that I remember, but how it all felt real. Our play happened without effort. It wasn’t just something we did–it was our truth.
In these busy times, it is so easy to overdose on serious. When we do this our bodies and hearts can become starved for freedom and nonsense. We desperately need that balance of work and play. And we need it more than once or twice a year on vacation.
I was listening to the lecture on play in the HeartRise program, and the idea of play as a physical and emotional release really hit home. I hadn’t considered all the ways non-competitive play fuels us, or the ways it’s been lost in modern society. When people are under stress, they often work harder or “do” more–even when play is what’s needed most.
Here are ten essential tips and thoughts on curing PDS:
1. Understand that there is a difference between play and sport. There is also a difference between play and accomplishment. In its truest form, play has no purpose and no goal. True play is reward in itself.
2. Some children aren’t given a chance to play because they’re too busy, or it’s viewed as “childish,” or a waste of time. No matter what age we are, we need play outlets that are solely for pleasure. Tamika says “child-ish” should be a compliment–not an insult. At HeartRise she asked us how we would feel if the word “adultish” was used as an insult?! Our language says a lot about how much we value children and play.
3. Play allows us to try on new and different roles and helps us explore hidden parts of ourselves. For example, playing house, the child who is usually the responsible older sibling can turn into the baby without being judged. Or the quiet child can talk to a stuffed animal like a best friend and calm feelings of loneliness.
4. Play helps us escape the monotony of everyday life. For me it honored what I needed to vent out. I always felt lighter after playing the role of the mother or teacher. Being young, I wanted–even needed–to embody the people I looked up to. I wanted to be the helper, the teacher, the leader, and be heard in those roles. Play fed that part of me that needed to express itself.
5. Try to avoid making all pleasurable pastimes goal-oriented. On the journey from childhood to adolescence, if competition and accomplishment take over, all of a sudden play can become something kids resent. The child who loved music and played the piano for pleasure is now pushed to practice. The child who dressed up for fun is now pushing herself to rehearse lines for drama school.
6. Turning play into productivity can create problems later on. I’ve noticed that when social children who love connection lose their passion for pure play, as teens they can dive deeper into the party scene. Adolescence can be confusing enough; I’ve seen social, outgoing kids looking for unhealthy ways to set their inner child free. Maybe if we valued play all along, it wouldn’t have to be that way.
7. Some adults unintentionally diminish the value of play. This is understandable because parents are so busy themselves. When the kids are underfoot they say, “go play,” asking them to relocate when the behavior is inappropriate for the environment. This takes the meaning and the spontaneity out of play.
8. I also notice how parents will play with their kids when they feel guilty. They may think they haven’t spent enough time with their kids and decide to interact with them when they notice this. This is something to consider if you are parenting, but clearly there is nothing easy about parenting–so no judgment!
9. Whenever possible, have a room solely designated for play, mess, creativity, and clutter. This can be good for adults too.
10. Finally, the best thing we can do is be a good role model for play. The wisest adults I’ve met on my path are the ones who know how to be silly, spontaneous, and not take themselves too seriously. They are the type of people who don’t lose themselves in the conformity of the culture, and instead remain true to themselves no matter what other people think.
Lately I’ve been working on simplifying my life, and it makes me think of having more fun, playing more, and being light. There is a time and place for seriousness, and I’m no less intelligent because I like to be silly and venture out of my comfort zone. Play keeps me healthy and happy!
I’m grateful to HeartRise for helping me remember my younger self and better understand her, and I vow to keep her spark alive within me always.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear some of the ways you play. Or if you’re not playing enough right now, what is one thing you promise to do for yourself this summer–purely for fun?