You may not be feeling much like playing these days, but it’s really important to our mental health. If you’re a regular listener, you know I’ve been trying to play, to have fun, but it, like everything these days, feels hard. But just because something’s a challenge doesn’t mean we should give up. So, I’m continuing to look for ways to play, regardless of external events.
You may be wondering what play has to do with mindfulness. A key component of play is being in the moment, which is the same as being mindful. Finding play highlights an important aspect of mindfulness which is that mindfulness is not necessarily a way to feel good or more positive or even happier. People frequently do experience these feelings if they dedicate the time to practicing meditation, but mindfulness is simply non-judgmental awareness, not a cure-all for boredom, fear or anything else that ails us. Mindfulness helps us to accept what is happening, both positive and negative, both internally and externally, and with an understanding that it is temporary, as life is a series of passing events. As we recognize that we are feeling down or not enjoying life, we can explore it without judgment, accept it for what it is, and then decide if we want to do anything about it or not. A lot of people are struggling with their mental well-being right now, so why not take steps to improve it? Hence, play.
I’ve realized through these challenging times that almost all of my play since my children grew up has been externally focused. Amusement parks, the zoo, the beach, movie theaters, comedy clubs, happy hour with friends…which of course has all come to a screeching halt. My first priority now is to reconnect with my inner-child to find the fun that goes with play. I could do it as a child, so I should certainly be able to figure it out as an adult.
According to Dr. Stuart Brown from his book “Play,” the properties of play include purposeless, voluntary, inherent attraction, freedom from time, diminished consciousness of self, improvisational potential and a desire to continue. Sounds good! But how do we do it?
In desperate need of an expert, I recently interviewed Jeff Harry, founder of Rediscover Your Play. Jeff is a leadership consultant, executive coach and international speaker on the very serious subject of play. Jeff has worked with Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon and Facebook, helping their staff to infuse more play into the day-to-day. His play-work has been featured in the New York Times, CNN and more, plus one of my favorites, SoulPancake. Jeff believes that we already have many of the answers we seek, and by simply unleashing our inner child, we can find our purpose and, in turn, help to create a better world.
According to Jeff, while we spend most of our time pretending to be important, serious grownups, it's when we let go of that facade and just play, that the real magic happens. Fully embracing our own nerdy genius — whatever that is — gives us the power to make a difference and change lives.
Thanks again to Jeff for his time and insights. Alright, I’m motivated to try again. I like what Jeff said about how work can be play. I’m going to think about that, as I actually used to think of my work as play, but may have forgotten that over the past few months. My first steps are going to be to increase my awareness of what is fun about my job and to find new creative outlets that I can use in my work to increase my sense of play. And I’m definitely checking out his positive psychology playlist at rediscoveryourplay.com/playlist.
The only question remaining is, how are you going to play today?
How to find Jeff Harry: