Friday, May 3, 2013

Make Time For Playtime!!




 Play improves our memory, will stimulate the growth of the cerebral cortex, and it's fun.

In 1964, Marion Diamond and her colleagues published an paper about brain growth in rats. The neuroscientists had conducted a landmark experiment, raising some rats in boring, solitary confinement and others in exciting, toy-filled colonies. When researchers examined the rat brains, they discovered that the environmentally enriched rats had thicker cerebral cortices than did the deprived rats (Diamond et al 1964). So kids with a lot of toys are the biggest rats ! Sorry my bad. Subsequent research confirmed the results, rats raised stimulating environments had bigger brains. They were smarter too, able to find their way through mazes more quickly (Greenough and Black 1992).
Do these benefits of play extend to humans, well ethical considerations prevent us from performing similar experiments on kids. Too bad, however it doesn't seem so far out to assume that it may be very likely that human brains respond to play and exploration in similar ways.


Play is extremely important for humans from birth to death. Play is not meant to be just for children. It is a form of release and connection that can tap into creativity and can allow you the chance to connect with your inner child and the inner child of others. Play is a state of mind, but it is also a state of body, emotion, and spirit. Yes, it is something you do (playing games, swinging, playing "tag", playing with toys), but it is also something you watch others do, and gain pleasure from simply watching. It is often described as a time when we feel most alive, yet it is something we take for granted and may forget to do. Play can be used in many ways to not only stimulate creativity but as a way to transform negative emotions. We are hardwired as adults to engage in play, and it is crucial to our vitality to spend time with play each day. You can even play topless if you like! We know play can inspire you to think differently.

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the trouble-makers, "The round pegs in the square holes". These are the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, about the only thing you can't do is ignore them. The reason, they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, most see genius. History shows us the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. Yes, play can be wild and crazy. It can break all the rules and can crash the status quo and the hum-drum way of doing the same old thing. Walt Disney was dedicated to play, and his willingness to buck conventional wisdom changed the world of entertainment. He did not allow the criticisms of the world to get in the way of his child-like imagination. I know from personal experience playing can bring greater joy into your life.

What do you think the world would be like if every human spent time each day in play? I bet just asking you this question brought a smile to your face, didn't it. Play creates laughter, joy, and a feeling of inner peace. It is almost impossible to stay angry, or frustrated when you are playing. Starting today, carve out just 10 minutes a day to engage in some form of play, and watch your overall joy factor rise, and your stress factor, lower. We know that play inherently by design should reduce stress.

Anthropological and neural studies show that as humans, play is hardwired into our genetic code. As humans, we crave the need to play because it is instinctive and fundamental to human existence. With regular play, our problem-solving and adaptive abilities will be in much better shape to handle this stressful complex world. We are much more likely to choose healthy answers to challenging situations as they arise. The reason for this is that play teaches us how to manage our negative emotions. It is the foundation for sound mental, physical, and emotional health. Play can make work seem like pleasure, and aside from this, it is just plain fun! It creates laughter and freedom that can instantly reduce stress and add a feeling of relaxation to our daily living. Playing on a regular basis can help you live longer.

Many adults are working from 40-60 hours per week, seeing play as a luxury that must be squeezed into the work week.  This view of play is sorely misguided. If you are play deprived, it is similar to being sleep deprived. Our genetic code demands that we play, just as it demands that we sleep, and when we resist this primal urge, our physical, emotional and mental energies are deeply depleted. With the loss of well-being,  physical, emotional, mental burnout, and stress-related health problems like hypertension are imminent. Infusing play and laughter into the workday can keep you emotionally balanced and can reduce stress, both of which can contribute to living healthier and longer. The next time you are feeling stressed as if you can't add one more thing to your full plate, take a break. Shoot a few baskets. (Even if it's only at the waste basket,really.) You will be adding years to your life.

Through the years, child development studies have revealed that play acts as an antidote to violent tendencies of aggressive youths and is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. People who avoid or have never learned to play may become lost in a world of  fear, anger, and any number of anti-social behaviors. Play provides us with an opportunity to choose alternatives to conflict, which is healthier and gives us a connection to other people. When we play, we are all transformed back into children. We are unburdened by a past or future, we are not self-consciousness, we are "in the moment." We are fused with pleasure, we exult in the sheer joy of scoring, winning or just playing. Sometimes it's enough to see how high the swing will go. Yet, as fun as those feelings are for youths, play's value among adults is too often vastly underrated. It refreshes and recharges us. It restores our optimism. It changes our perspective, stimulating creativity. It renews our ability to accomplish the non play, work of the world. Heck it just plain makes us tired so we naturally sleep better Play can also stimulate the imagination, curiosity, and creativity.

We know that play is a hands-on, minds-on learning process. We begin giving meaning to life playing out various possible scenarios. As a trainer. I keep reminding myself to see and view everything as if I had never seen it before. I then begin to see things with a different and new perspective. If we drive the same way to work, eat the same foods, live the same grind day in and day out, our minds begin to stagnate and we loose our zest for creativity and life. Play also increases your overall energy levels.

Life  can be hard. We've all been there, overworked, stressed, mentally and physically burned out. Day in and day out, you feel like you've hit the wall. You're too tired to work out, dragging through the day, and continually exhausted even when you first wake up. We're overdoing it. It's just a fact of life, and we need to live with it, right? Wrong! Mental and physical exhaustion is the body's natural response to physical exertion, emotional stress, or lack of sleep. Normally, we reach for a quick fix by drinking caffeinated or sugared energy drinks. The problem is, those stimulants provide only a temporary boost, lasting an hour at best. Worse, after they wear off, your energy levels crash, leaving you even more exhausted than before. Now, as an alternative playing, safely gives your body back the energy it needs by driving hormone distribution. Doing things that bring you joy and being with other people who are having fun enables you to keep your energy levels up longer and sustain more vitality. With play we can explore opportunity's to take risks. When we are engaged in living our lives as a game, and being the player, we begin to recognize the contradictions in one's own risk-taking behavior.

Accepting risk is an essential part of a full and healthy life. Play lets us experiment, explore and take risks with ideas. For too many of us, what is considered taking a risk is sometimes nothing more than taking an easier course. Play helps us release those thoughts that are locked in the head and the heart. Playing is very emotional. Play also helps us learn our way, develop curiosity, learn to think, make new choices, discover special talents, build social relationships, and experience new enthusiasm for life and learn from our mistakes. The wonderful thing about playing is that win or loose the game, everyone is successful at playing. It is a time to feel good about yourself and each other and to just have fun. Years later, when we recall our life, it 's the happy times spent playing with special people that we will remember most specifically. So my friends take some time to be a little more childlike, set aside some play time and enjoy the healthy benefits of playing. Get out of the gym it's almost summer! I'm sure your head is swimming with all different types of play you've been missing. One of my favorite games of all time to play is Ultimate Frisbee, the game teaches coordination, fitness and an exemplary level of competitive spirit. Watch the video for the rules and get a game up with your friends, at lunch or after work. Or just toss a Frisbee at lunch with friends. See you on the grass in the sun. Good Luck...







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