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Were you one of those kids who went outside to play with your friends and the only rule was you had to be home before the streetlights came on? Or if you were underfoot in the house, your Mum would say go outside and play and you did. Happily. Nobody had to teach us how to play, we were ready for any adventure and willing to try new ways to enjoy playtime. That’s kids for you, right? 

According to the National Institute for Play in the United States, we can all benefit from play. The unfortunate part is that we’ve been conditioned to believe that play is for children. It’s time to set the record straight. The NIP states that “play is the gateway to vitality.” According to their studies, play makes us more optimistic, it promotes a sense of belonging and community, among other things. In her recent TED Talk on the power of fun, author Catherine Price says that fun is not frivolous or optional; fun is the secret to feeling alive at any age. 

A few years ago, Wellings’ VP of Marketing Natalie Tommy and I were touring some Wellings communities. I remember so clearly when we were visiting Goderich, Ontario. There was an outdoor play and exercise area on the lakeshore. We hopped on swings, a teeter totter, an elliptical and both giggled while we played on the equipment. We were experiencing the freedom children feel when they play. It was both energizing and inspiring; we felt so alive. That’s what it is to have fun and play. When we share the experience with friends, it increases our delight, we let go of perfectionism and simply enjoy the moment. 

Sure, adulting is hard. We have a lot of pressure with our to do lists, the demands of family, work life and the stress we can feel around the use of our electronic devices but somewhere in there, there must be time for play and fun. Play creates connection, encourages lightheartedness, often induces laughter, and makes us resilient. Play makes for good relationships and it benefits our health, especially our immune system.  

“Play is training for the unexpected.”
– Marc Bekoff 

Consider walking, jogging, gardening, and yard chores as play instead of work to get the ball rolling. Are there games you like to play? I’m a secret Scrabble lover and I’ve been known to lie well when playing Balderdash. LOL. Board games are good play, so why not invite a few friends to join you for an afternoon or evening session? Forget the competitive aspect of game playing and you’ll have more fun. Karaoke is hilarious but maybe that’s just when I try to sing. LOL. Participate in a dance class, take up a musical instrument or if crafting is your thing, invite some friends to join you in making crafts around the holidays or doing some baking together.   

Certain activities help with our brain function and memory like card games, chess, puzzles; any game that challenges the mind. There’s golf and one of the fastest growing sports for seniors: pickle ball. If you don’t like sports or don’t feel up to getting out on the course or the court, try sitting outside on a beautiful day and looking for animal shapes in the clouds. Our beautiful imagination has no limitations, and it loves to have fun. 

During the Pandemic some of us became socially isolated and now that we’re resuming more normal activities, we can focus on connecting with other people to keep ourselves socially fit. Get-togethers are good fun and too often, we wait for someone else to arrange them. Why not organize a coffee or tea party for no reason (or make one up) and invite a few friends to bring their favourite sweet treat to share? 

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
– George Bernard Shaw 

A good conversation can feel like play if you keep the topic light, which you can do by steering the discussion with questions about each other that prompt positive memories. Laughter is good medicine, especially in these strange times, so movie nights to watch a comedy with friends or going to a comedy club should help increase the feeling of having fun together. Too often we humans are eager to share our complaints but complaining does nothing to improve the situation. It’s just a signal that something needs to shift, and it may very well be your mindset. 

I encourage you as I encourage myself to make play and fun a priority every day. As often as possible, share your play time with others to increase the benefit. It’ll make for more joy in your day which will make you a better friend and a better partner. I don’t know who started the rumour that life is serious business, but I can tell you that the power of play and fun will light you up on the inside and help transform your life for the better. 

Enjoy this short video clip of Nat and Kat having a blast. Click here to watch the video. 

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