In case you missed the memo, it is summertime. In my world, that means lots of walks to the playground, time at the pool, family vacation, day trips to fun destinations, and all kinds of other play. I noticed that trend as we got into the second full week of summer. And then I found this video, and I knew what I wanted to write about this week. Dr. Stuart Brown is a researcher who studies the impact and importance of play. (Fair warning, the video is 26 minutes long, so you need to invest some time to see the whole thing–but it’s worth it).
In case you don’t have 26 minutes right now to watch the whole video, let me summarize one of the key points. Dr. Brown talks about the fact that play, both as children and as adults, is not something trivial. Instead, he characterizes play as one of the most important things that we do.
And that got me to thinking. Where does play fit into my life? Where am I silly, and light, and immersed in a moment of joy? And those questions led me to thinking about my readers and my patients. Because play feels incompatible with pain. When you are hurting, one of the last things that you are thinking about is play.
But after listening to Dr. Brown and thinking about moments in my own life, I think that maybe we have it backwards. Maybe, when we are faced with our biggest challenges, that is when we need to be most deliberate about adding in some small moments of joy.
So, I’d like you to think about this. What do you do on any given day that brings a smile to your face? What lets you set down your adult responsibilities for a moment or two? What adds to the total amount of joy in your life? Here are a few suggestions:
- Dig out the board games and challenge a loved one.
- Learn a new card game.
- Do some brain play with a crossword.
- Kick a soccer ball.
- Splash your heels in a stream or swimming pool.
- Find a swingset and defy gravity.
- Try out a canoe or kayak.
- Hike through a new park.
- Challenge a friend to a riddle contest.
- Dig out some art supplies and color or sculpt or otherwise create.
- If you’re close enough to a beach, go race some waves.
- Make music.
- Blow bubbles.
- Fly a kite.
This is a short list, and I’d love to hear suggestions from you in the comments to expand the list (and the definition of play). As you think about this, I hope that you find ways that you can let some small joys re-enter your life–even if you are currently facing great pain.