Think about the early days of your childhood. If I ask you to recall your favorite memories, do you think of time spent playing with blocks, climbing trees, pretending to be ____, jumping in leaves, riding your bike, swinging, chasing others, coloring, trying different sports with neighbor kids, sled riding, trying new instruments, doing cannonballs in a pool, building forts, playing cards or board games, catching critters, and so on? What emotions bubble to the surface as you think back on your days of playing? My guess is these memories trigger the positive emotions you felt while doing the activities. My question to you is do you still actively engage in free play as an adult? If yes, I'm impressed. If no, my goal is to encourage you to get back to your roots of happiness.
When I lived in Texas, which I found particularly difficult, I ran to a playground several times a week. I reintroduced swinging, climbing, jumping, and chasing into my world again. In Munich, I rediscovered the pure joy of riding my bicycle. I was fortunate to know some musicians in Tokyo so I spent many nights singing along with friends. While I was in Dhaka, I played a lot of tennis. What I loved on the weekend, though, was goofing around in the pool after we finished our tennis group. I also had a weekly Pictionary night with a few close friends. Now I find myself on a beautiful island where I can run, bike, and swim, but at least once a week when I do interval training, I skip. You can imagine how ridiculous I look but I'm convinced that you can't stay in a bad mood when you skip. I'm also fortunate to have a little one so I find myself on the floor building with blocks, talking and singing in funny voices, reading silly books, splashing in water, you name it. I'm a very big believer in being a kid at heart and now there is research to back this thinking.
Boost in creativity, imagination, and problem-solving
Improved connections to others
Boosts in energy, vitality, and resistance to disease
Release of negative emotions
(Patterson, 2011) and (Robinson,Smith, & Segal, 2016)
Increased productivity, activity, and creativity
Improved overall health
More likeable and friendly
Perceive life as more meaningful
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
Patterson, Cheryl. "Adult Play. Have a Healthy Dose of Fun." Alive.com. 29 Sept 2011. Web.29 Jan 2016.
Robinson, Smith, & Segal. "The Benefit of Play for Adults." HelpGuide.org. Jan 2016. Web. 29 Jan 2016.
(Photos are mine.)