A Self-Care Challenge
While I love my meditation and journaling practices, every now and then I like shaking things up when it comes to being mindful. I especially like to add more play in the summer.
Sometimes mindfulness comes across as a little too solemn and serious. It doesn’t have to be. Mindfulness is a wonderful practice because it’s so accessible. And it can even be FUN.
In fact, more of our mindfulness should be playful. We all need more play in our lives.
Why We Need More Play
When we hear the word “play,” we probably associate it with something children do. Adults need to play just as much as kids do. Play is how we learn about the world and sparks creativity in a few different ways.
- Play helps us solve problems.
When you approach a challenge with a more playful mindset, it makes that problem-solving fun.
TRY IT: Stuck on a task at work? Set a timer for 5 minutes to play first. Bust out your hula hoop, make a paper airplane, blow bubbles outside, or play hide and seek with your dog. When the timer goes off, attack your task with that same energy.
- Playing makes us more empathetic.
Remember playing pretend as a kid? Or going through role-playing exercises? Imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great way to build empathy for others and flexes your creative muscles.
TRY IT: Think of a situation where you wanted things to go differently. Put yourself in the other person’s role, where you’re observing yourself, and reflect on the scenario from that new perspective.
- Play builds confidence.
Children learn new skills through play. When they climb trees, for example, they build strength and learn motor skills that help them reach the next branch. The way children (and other animals) figure out many new experiences is through play. And when those experiences aren’t new anymore, they’re way less scary … and we get brave enough to climb even higher.
How To Play More
We take things seriously as adults, but many of our everyday activities can be playful if you’re a little more open-minded. In fact, even Albert Einstein practiced playfulness: he applied what’s called “combinatory play” to his scientific research.
Combinatory play is really just combining different ideas or objects to produce a new idea (or object). Clinical psychologist Victoria Stevens explains that “finding links, connections, and patterns between apparently dissimilar things is essential to creative thinking.” You can practice combinatory play, too—it’s a great way to get the creative juices going when you’re stuck in a rut.
Combinatory play is how Einstein came up with the formula for E = mc2. He would often play the violin or piano while working through his scientific research. The activity gave his brain a kind of break from all that science, resulting in deeper insights into the problems he worked on.
As you might imagine, there are books about this too. Check out my review on Game On? Brain On!: The Surprising Relationship between Play and Gray (Matter).
Making Time for Play
If you want to carve out more time for play, there are a few ways you can incorporate that into your day.
- Brainstorm sessions
Stuck on an idea? Grab a friend or coworker and do a “brain dump” with them. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and talk through whatever ideas come up, no matter how silly or ridiculous they might seem. It’s important to verbalize your thoughts WITHOUT editing what you’re saying. Have your friend take notes or jot things down on a whiteboard. My personal favorite way to brainstorm utilizes the mind-map method.
- Non-dominant handwriting
Instead of doing your journaling with your dominant hand, use the opposite one. Non-dominant handwriting is playful, because you’re exploring something new … and you’re literally using a new part of your brain when you use the “wrong” hand! And Inner Affirmations can walk you through how to make this a part of your mindfulness practice.
- Dance it out
There’s no better way to get out of a creative or emotional rut than a dance party. Find your favorite song and give yourself permission to let loose. Make it an experiment—explore new ways to move your body and feel into the words or rhythm. Enjoy being in your skin.
- Explore the outdoors
Being outdoors, especially during the summer, is a great way to practice mindfulness, and navigating a new trail or walking route can be a fun way to explore your surroundings.
There are a ton of ways we can play more, everyday.