Work-life balance is something we all strive for, but what it really means and how to achieve it eludes many of us, falling somewhere between an enigmatic mystery and a human resources buzz word.
Even when we do have time off from work, it is very tempting (and some would argue necessary) to fill that life with even more work — catching up on domestic chores like cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass and so on.
What we really need, according to scientists at the National Institute for Play, is to have more fun.
"The opposite of play is not work, it's depression," stated NIP founder and psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown in an October 2014 article in The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Brown asserts that many branches of science — from neurophysiology, developmental and cognitive psychology, to animal play behavior and evolutionary and molecular biology —confirm what we all intuitively know: Play is important to our physical and mental health. And not just for children, but adults too.
"Nothing lights up the brain like play," said Brown, whose book, Play, details the many different kinds of play and its benefits.
Brown has spent years collecting the "play histories" of thousands of people and has identified several different modes of play. Take a look at a few of the categories below and imagine ways you can allow them to filter into your own life. Attunement Play: Imagine a mother and baby cooing and giggling and smiling at one another or the silent look of amusement between yourself and a friend when you want to make an inside joke but can't. This is one of the simplest and most primal kinds of play. Body Play: This can include silly dancing, charades, skipping rope to rhymes or playing tag. We all did a lot of this as children but could stand to do more as grown ups. Object Play: Think old-fashioned toys, throwing a ball, etc. Or go ahead and pretend your hairbrush is a microphone — it's for your health. Social Play: Ever see a litter of puppies wrestling? This is social play. So is the witty banter of a group of friends. Make a point to take some time with your best buddies to just hang out and goof off together. You don't need for every social engagement to have an agenda. Imaginative Play: Good ol' pretending. Kids do this naturally, but adults can get in on the fun, too. From pretending with your own kids to role-playing games online, going to a renaissance festival or cosplay (costume play) event, or simply daydreaming about places you'd like to visit or experiences you'd like to have, it's important to spend time in your own imagination. Storytelling-Narrative Play: Telling tales around the fire is one of humanity's most ancient activities. It lives on in TV, film and books, but making up your own stories can be even more rewarding.