(As seen in Corporate Wellness Magazine, June 2017)
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
If you’ve ever seen the movie The Shining, (and if you haven’t, you need to, it’s great!) you’ll recognize these words. Jack Nicholson plays (no pun intended here) Jack Torrance. He becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado, hoping to cure his writer’s block. Mystery and mayhem ensue. I don’t want to give it away, but you get the idea.
It’s true that all work and no play WILL make you into a bit of a dullard, but it’s doubtful that any of us will do a deep dive into the kind of shenanigans in this movie. However, play is important to our creativity, mindset and how we see the world overall.
Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of The National Institute of Play (isn’t it great that there is such a thing?!), defines play like this: ‘Play is a state of mind rather than an activity. It’s an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It’s also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.’
Doesn’t that sound like fun? Play can be anything from running and jumping or getting out the Monopoly board to going to a ball game or reading a good book. There’s really no ‘correct’ way to play. Play is always self-customized. What makes you happy? What brings you joy and makes you forget about time and space?
But all too often, we get into that “I’m an adult, I don’t have time for that” frame of mind. We have stress in our jobs, families to take care of, financial issues do deal with, and more. Our days go by in a series of rote events. All of a sudden, we’re exhausted, totally burnt and lose all sense of happiness or joy in life.
What kind of life is it, then? If play is a state of mind, as Dr. Brown suggests, isn’t it worth it to take a step back and do things that make you happy—even if it’s for just a little while? I, myself, make sure to leave 20 minutes or so in the morning to read a book with my coffee. A book for fun; fiction that has nothing to do with my work. It’s purely for pleasure. It makes me happy and I could stay there and easily lose track of time.
And play has been shown to help stimulate nerve growth, help process emotions and more. It helps keep us balanced. Play make us feel good! Remember the last time you played softball with your friends? Or went to an art gallery opening with art you loved? How did that make you feel? When you have to “come back to reality” after engaging in an activity, you were truly playing, and that attitude and mood can stay with you for hours afterwards.
What about work? If you have the same reaction as when you’re at that game or gallery, you’re playing at work. If it gives you joy and it’s fun, it’s play! Working at a job you hate, abhorring every moment you’re at the office is no way to live. If you do find yourself in that position, make sure you have a hobby or pastime you love in your off hours. That extra time just for YOU to do something fun can help your mindset if you really don’t enjoy your chosen profession.
Bottom line is this. Keep playing, no matter what your age and stage. Play means growth. Play means progress. And as Dr. Brown writes in his book Play; “When we stop playing, we start dying.”