Hours pass by. I’m supposed to be doing other things but I find myself tinkering, a block becoming a breakthrough, trying to get a detail just right. Is it weird that I’m having fun, preparing a workshop all about play?

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading and feeling inspired by Stuart Brown’s wonderful book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. I first came across it in Brene Brown’s 2010 book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, a slim but wonderful volume which has recently been reissued as a hardback for the first time.

Her 7th Guidepost for “Wholehearted living”, Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth feels even more needed now than it did 11 years ago.

Brene recalls;

“I remember telling one of my colleagues, “These Wholehearted people fool around a lot.” She laughed and asked, “Fool around? How?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know. They have fun and .. I don’t know what you call it. They hang out and do fun things.”

She looked confused. “Like what kind of fun things? Hobbies? Crafts? Sports?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Kinda like that but not so organised. I’m going to have to dig around some more.”

Now I look back on that conversation and think, How did I not know what I was seeing? Was I so personally removed from this concept that I couldn’t recognise it?

It’s PLAY! A critically important component of Wholehearted living is play!”

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I’ve had times in my life when the concept of play was as alien to me as it once was to Brene.

For, as Stuart Brown points out, “The opposite of play is not work; the opposite of play is depression.” And I think many of us are severely play-deprived at this stage in the pandemic.

As I recount recent conversations with friends, I’m struck by those I know who have overcome recent struggles, and those who are still finding a path through.

The former have made time to play, be it walks in nature or an afternoon on a pedalo; the latter I will now urge to find a way to play.

For it’s a biological need as necessary as food, sleep and rest, and which can manifest in a multitude of ways – some of us are competitors, who need goals and structures, others need to move their body through dance or sport, and others find their bliss through collecting unique objects or experiences.

Play is more than just ‘clowning around’ (the ‘Joker’ being only one of the Play Personalities Stuart Brown has identified);

Stuart Brown’s 8 Play Personalities © Anya Pearse 2021

As I look ahead, this month feels pretty full already. As part of taking care of myself, I know that actively making time to play will be as important as taking time to rest.

Research shows that a simple act of creativity a day – normal things like cooking, drawing, craft etc – help us flourish and “feel significantly more energetic, enthusiastic, and excited the next day”.

So tomorrow (Sunday) is a sewing day for me. Time to nourish my inner Artist/Creator!

What role does play have in your life? And is there a way for you to include more play in your life this month, too, I wonder?

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Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

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PS Want to attend my workshop on Monday 3rd of May? It’s part of The Museum of Happiness’s Happy World Club! For just £10 a month you get access to four sessions – a launch session on the month’s topic, a special guest speaker, a virtual hang-out, and a held sharing circle. Come and join me!

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