How to be more play­ful

Your long-lost child­like hu­mour and play­ful­ness is a great tool for adult­hood too, writes Gugulethu Mh­lungu..


When was the last time you played and laughed like a child? If you have to think about this, then it’s been too long. Who can blame you? Adult­hood is de­mand­ing; from work, the kids and money (or lack thereof) to wor­ry­ing about your safety, among others. So, just find­ing the time to play might seem like wish­ful think­ing. Many also be­lieve that once you’re older, play­ing and hu­mour make you seem less re­spon­si­ble. But, main­tain­ing some play­ful­ness can ac­tu­ally be good for you. Coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist spe­cial­is­ing in play ther­apy for chil­dren, Thomas Gef­fen, says hu­mans play longer than other mam­mals be­cause they have a long child­hood as com­pared to other an­i­mals that ma­ture quickly. “Play­ing is a range of creative ac­tiv­i­ties that al­low for pre­tend­ing and imag­in­ing things. This al­lows chil­dren to de­velop cog­ni­tive rea­son­ing, mo­tor and so­cial skills from us­ing toys such as build­ing blocks or dolls, and other soft skills such as em­pa­thy, shar­ing and bound­aries.” Main­tain­ing that sense of hu­mour and cre­ativ­ity has a num­ber of ben­e­fits. For in­stance, if you play with your chil­dren, you con­nect and make them feel safe. They’re also able to ex­press feel­ings they wouldn’t oth­er­wise be able to. If they see you be­ing light-hearted, they feel at ease to ap­proach you.

Play­ing as a grown-up

While play­ful­ness can be about do­ing some­thing fun such as danc­ing, there are other ways of nur­tur­ing that side. Thomas says it af­fords you the same abil­ity as chil­dren to imag­ine and cre­ate, even when deal­ing with se­ri­ous mat­ters. “Be­ing play­ful says to the other per­son that you are deal­ing with a mat­ter, but in a safe and non­threat­en­ing way. This can be great for build­ing trust and in­ti­macy.” Play­ful­ness plays an im­por­tant role in ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships, too, ac­cord­ing to the late

Bernard L. De Koven, who wrote on Psy­chol­ogy To­day: “When you are play­ful, you are more re­spon­sive; you are ready to change and change again; to try some dif­fer­ent way of be­ing, some other strat­egy. You are even ready to let go of one goal for the sake of an­other, aban­don pur­pose and se­ri­ous­ness or look silly. And, you’re sex­ier, too.” Thomas agrees on the role of play to im­prove your re­la­tion­ship, whether it’s ad­dress­ing some­thing im­por­tant us­ing teas­ing and hu­mour or to im­prove sex­ual in­ti­macy.

Do­ing it for your­self

So, where do you be­gin with find­ing your play­ful side again? It can be as sim­ple as small acts ev­ery day. Writ­ing for TheGe­niu­, Kath­leen Al­fano shares some of the ways in which you can do this. They in­clude mak­ing time to day­dream, ex­pe­ri­ence and ap­pre­ci­ate alone play­time, smil­ing and laugh­ing of­ten as well as singing and danc­ing just for the fun of it. She adds that play­ful­ness can be en­cour­aged by sim­ply cul­ti­vat­ing a happy, pos­i­tive at­ti­tude, full of grat­i­tude for even the small­est, ev­ery­day things.

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