13 Oct Aging Well with Play
I realized recently that I could use more pleasure * in my life, and that got me interested in adult play. Never mind that play promotes creativity, problem-solving, social well-being, and improved brain function. I just want to have more fun!
What is play?
Maybe you’ve noticed the recent trend in adult colouring books. They certainly aren’t for everyone, but they fit the idea of play as something done for its own sake, the act being more important than the outcome, and purposeless fun.
A competitive sport in which the goal is to win is not play. Sports just for the fun of it is play.
Play might be
– games with your cat or walking your dog
– making music or listening to it
– watching movies
– reading books
– playing with children or grandchildren
– participating in the arts, such as painting, dance, or handcrafts
– playing games or doing puzzles and brain-teasers.
Features of play
You know you’re playing when an activity brings you fun and joy, involves learning and an element of challenge, and keeps you focused. Learning to juggle or working out new dance steps, for example, include all three elements. Play that includes the challenge of learning something new is particularly gratifying and deepens the pleasure of play.
Novelty is also an important feature of play. The novelty might be adding complexity to play that you already enjoy, or trying out something altogether different from anything you’ve done before.
If physical changes prevent you from doing what you used to do for fun, focusing on adapting forms of play to your present situation, or seeking new activities that fit your current abilities, can provide the novelty and pleasure that you need.
Alone or together
What were the kinds of play you did as a child? Were you on your own or doing things with others? Play can be solitary or done with others, or done alone in the company of others who are also playing alone. I think of something like a pottery class, where everyone is in the room together, but each person is doing their own thing.
Having other people around as you play, or interacting with others as you play, are both helpful in promoting social well-being. After all, we humans are social beings, including those who are introverts, so including a social element in your play helps to develop your network of relationships.
* Search for Approaches to Happiness questionnaire at U. of Penn’s Authentic Happiness site, which will give you an idea of how much of your happiness is related to pleasure, life satisfaction, and meaning.