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 TheGeniusofPlay.org, 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.