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Natural Awakenings National

The Power of Playfulness

Jun 30, 2021 09:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Couple laughing and dancing together in kitchen being playful


Mirth has been a memory for most of us this past year; something that we need now more than ever. White-knuckle survival and transition can drain neurotransmitters, those chemical messengers vital for strong immunity and good mental health. Taking a vacation from seriousness just might be what the doctor ordered.

As kids, we rarely turned down an opportunity to roll in the grass, laugh ourselves into bellyaches or catch a wave of spontaneous fun. With the advent of adulthood, pouring a drink or going on a shopping spree often becomes a knee-jerk relaxation strategy, leaving the option for nourishing play in the distant past. 

Recent research shows what kids and kittens already know: Snippets of playtime are good for the soul and provide benefits like reduced depression, stronger emotional resilience and higher productivity on the job. A study by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, in Germany, published last year in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being suggests that even serious, poker-faced humans can train themselves to be more playful. 

Postponing levity accomplishes nothing and doesn’t solve today’s problems, yet we may find it almost impossible to grab downtime without guilt gnawing away at our joy. Try making a to-do list that is solely dedicated to pure, inner-child-approved, illogical fun. Some activities to consider penciling into the calendar:

  • Roll around the floor with the dog or play hide-and-go-seek with the kids.
  • Host an adult sleepover; stay up late watching a scary movie or one made for a younger audience.
  • Make ink blots with watercolors or play with air-dry clay or easy-to-make salt dough. 
  • Grab some crayons and adult-designed coloring books.
  • Blow bubbles in the backyard or during a morning shower.
  • Go out for low- or sugar-free ice cream or gluten-free pizza.
  • Fly a kite or find shapes and faces in passing clouds.
  • Roll in the leaves or down a grassy hill with that special someone.
  • Bounce a ball during work breaks.
  • Belt out karaoke songs and delight in being off-key.
  • Play charades or a favorite childhood game.
  • Have a staring contest.

Having some fun doesn’t break the bank, and the only requirement is to check self-consciousness at the door. “Wasting” time is being free, and that is worth its weight in gold.

Marlaina Donato is the author of several books and a composer of healing and inspiring music.

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