I can hear a little voice in my head saying "There's a cost of living crisis happening, the planet is in the midst of climate & biodiversity crisis, the global south is under water or burning, there are wars happening around the world and you want to talk about PLAYING????" Yup... absolutely I do.
It is in exactly these times that, in my humble opinion, we need to find lightness and play more than ever! I am not dismissing the need to acknowledge other so-called 'negative' emotions such as fear and anger.... far from it. Fear and anger are necessary emotions that can trigger some really helpful and sometimes life saving physiological responses (fight, flight, freeze, fawn). They can galvanise us to take action to make changes for the better. However, languishing in these emotions or allowing them to take over can be destructive and compounding - especially when fear and/or anger are chronically experienced emotions - low level but constant. So what can we do about this when we live in a world where the media (mainstream & social) is constantly warning us of societal, political, economical, mental health & environmental disasters? We could go & live in a yurt off grid somewhere & knit our own clothes,... believe me I'm tempted sometimes but I'm not sure my kids would be very grateful!
So... how about injecting a good dose of PLAY into your life??? Sound a bit too glib? My ask is that you bare with me a little! According to Barbara Fredrickson the pre-eminent professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina & author of fantastic books such as Positivity & Love 2.0; when we experience 'positive' emotions we BROADEN our horizons and BUILD our resources. If you think about it that's why baby animals tend to be so much more playful than adults - they are in a rapid stage of development & play helps them build their skillset & broaden their perspectives.
So... experiencing joy can enable us to see the bigger picture, get creative with potential solutions, build our resilience, face adversity with more poise, forge stronger relationships... the list goes on! Imagine having all of that at your disposal? If there was a pill that delivered the same promises we'd all be rushing to the pharmacy!! I have written about AWE before and the beneficial impact that could have on how we view the world around us & therefore how we take care of it. As we face a pivotal point in our history my belief is that experiencing positive emotions could just help us turn the ship around - not only in our own lives but in a much wider sense too!
Take a moment... go on... don't just say you'll do it later, it's literally a moment out of your day....!! Take a moment and do something playful.... dance or sing to your favourite track, throw your head back and LAUGH, jump in a puddle, run around for no apparent reason, skip round the room... whatever makes you giggle or smile inside & out! Now notice what has shifted within you. How are you seeing the world now as opposed to before you started reading this?
There is plenty of research backing the health benefits of regularly experiencing 'positive' emotions too - stress reduction, improved recovery from stress, more effective coping therefore providing a 'buffer' against depression and one study even found that experiencing 'positive' emotions can be linked to a healthier heart!
My invitation is to consciously build PLAY into your life & NOTICE the difference it makes. If you have to diarise time to play then do it! I often work with clients who create their own PLAY-list... a list of all the active things that bring them joy! And if I haven't convinced you yet, & you want a little more of a philosophical viewpoint about play, have a listen to the fabulous Alan Watts. Top tip... listen with your eyes closed...
Alan Watts & David Lindberg - Why Your Life Is Not A Journey - YouTube
I would love to hear your thoughts & experiences so do please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
In the meantime ENJOY the dance!
AUTHOR: ANNIE LEE
Annie is a coach, coach supervisor & coach adventurer! Warmth, depth & joy sum her approach up in a nutshell!