Play­ful way to thrive

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE­STYLE - DR ALI BLACK Dr Ali Black is a Se­nior Lec­turer in Ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast.

MANY of us are anx­ious and stressed – our chil­dren too. So how can we sup­port heal­ing and hope­ful­ness in th­ese trau­matic and un­cer­tain times?

Pri­ori­tis­ing car­ing and light­hearted in­ter­ac­tions and time for fun and re­lax­ation is es­sen­tial. Rather than fo­cus­ing on sched­ules, give time to cul­ti­vat­ing cu­rios­ity and play­ful­ness. Many stud­ies find play­ful­ness and cu­rios­ity sup­port our re­silience and abil­ity to cope in the face of stress­ful sit­u­a­tions.

Be­ing play­ful im­proves our mood and cre­ativ­ity and sup­ports our con­nec­tion with oth­ers. In short, be­ing play­ful sup­ports bet­ter men­tal health.

In early child­hood cour­ses, I teach teach­ers three key things to fo­cus on to sup­port chil­dren’s healthy de­vel­op­ment: “at­tach­ment re­la­tion­ships”, “care­giv­ing” and “play”.

Con­nec­tions and re­la­tion­ships, care and car­ing in­ter­ac­tions, play and play­ful­ness are key pri­or­i­ties in th­ese times.

In Re­silient: How to Grow an un­shake­able Core of Calm, Strength and Hap­pi­ness, Rick Han­son says that as well as de­vel­op­ing in­ner re­sources such as grit and com­pas­sion, fo­cus­ing on en­joy­ment is a pow­er­ful way to care for our­selves. We can cut stress and bet­ter con­nect with oth­ers when we seek en­rich­ing, fun and en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ences. Play ticks th­ese boxes.

Many fam­i­lies will be feel­ing anx­ious about school­ing from home, feel­ing pres­sured about the jug­gle of do­ing ev­ery­thing from home for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Play can help. As the hol­i­days end, keep the fo­cus on play and cu­rios­ity, on en­joy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and re­la­tion­ships, on be­ing play­ful.

Ev­ery day should have fun and en­joy­ment planned. Play­ful­ness through our words and body lan­guage is a way to show our fam­ily and chil­dren we care about them and en­joy them. And it will lower stress.

Try­ing to be play­ful when anx­ious might feel hard. But a cu­ri­ous fact is that brains are not able to ex­pe­ri­ence stress and play­ful­ness at the same time.

So, when we give our en­ergy to be­ing play­ful, we dis­rupt the stress and anx­i­ety.

Play­ful­ness will re­duce our sense of worry and over­whelm. Play­ful­ness will help us en­joy each other, make our re­la­tion­ships more in­ti­mate, re­laxed and mean­ing­ful. In­ter­act­ing play­fully will bring a sense of hope­ful­ness and pos­si­bil­ity. Play­ful mo­ments will re­as­sure us and our chil­dren that pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences can still take place, good times can still hap­pen, and hope is real.

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