How Taking Time from the Busy-ness of Life Reinvigorates the Soul

I have a playful personality. It’s a big part of who I am. My brothers and I grew up as big “players”—building forts, organizing treehouse sleepovers, participating in all kinds of sports. To this day, we engage in a lot of play, not just with our own children, but still with each other. Every Thanksgiving means a family football game, and we LOVE to play pranks on each other.

(Just this past Thanksgiving, I had a terrifyingly realistic fake snake waiting in the guest room closet for my brother when he and his family arrived at our house. Yes there were screams—from him. And lots of laughs—from everyone else!)

Play is just something that comes naturally in my household. It’s not unusual to find my son and me engaged in a riotous game of hide-and-seek with our fun-loving dog, George, ducking into closets and giggling ourselves silly. My morning run often takes me tearing through fields and splashing in creeks. I even give our trampoline a workout from time to time, literally jumping with joy (and proving to myself that I can still do a backflip!).

Heck, I’ve even been known to crank up the music and dance naked when I have the house to myself!

I love to laugh … be goofy … be totally free from the strict code of “normal” that many people abide by. Why do so many feel beholden to that code anyway? Why is it that reaching adulthood automatically labels play frivolous, or weird, or immature?

Recent scientific research has shown that play (by children and adults) actually shapes the brain, opens up imagination, and invigorates the soul. Play energizes and enlivens us. It helps to ease our burdens and provides a sense of optimism that is often lacking in a difficult world.

When we let our guard down and allow ourselves to be childlike, new possibilities are revealed—as are opportunities for success.

In fact, research has shown that play is so important, many major businesses are starting to incorporate it in the workplace. My stepson Drew works in a law firm that blends seriousness with silliness. He can take a break and catch his beloved St. Louis Cardinals on the TV in his office. And he and his colleagues can bond by making use of the firm’s pool table and bar!

With all this play happening, you might wonder how any work gets done. But remember what the happiness research says: A positive brain averages 31% more productivity than one that is negative, neutral, or stressed.

I’ve certainly found this to be true. Recently, I was feeling completely bogged down with work. I knew, logically, that I needed to park myself in front of the computer and not budge until I’d made a dent in my mountain of tasks. Instead, I gave myself two hours to get as much as I could done and called that “good enough” for the time being.

Why? Because my sweet little niece was visiting. Because she loves spending time with her Aunt Kimmie. Because sometimes, play is simply more important than work. And play, we did! We had a game of chase in the park, got crazy on the swings, and even played Barbies.

I try to make play a part of my professional work, too. At my Strobel Education workshops, I get my teachers out of their seats doing the Wobble dance. Or participating in my new favorite activity, Goosechase, a scavenger hunt game. The game turns my workshop into “Teachers Gone Wild,” and it gets my attendees laughing until they can’t breathe. I do this to break up the day-long session—and the teachers always come back to the room with big smiles, ready to take on the rest of the material with gusto!

Play doesn’t always have to be this wild, though. Coloring, painting, reading, storytelling, crafting, hiking, swimming, working with Legos or puzzles—effective play is whatever makes your soul sing a happy tune.

Think back to your most precious childhood memories. I bet most of them involved play. And I bet what you remember most about those moments is the joy and happiness you felt. Well, I say it’s time to recapture that joy as an adult! In fact, my challenge to you is to take some time this week, and indulge in your own version of play.

Perhaps someday I’ll host my very own retreat for adults where PLAY is the only agenda. (My team has heard about this dream of mine. I think they’re secretly worried I’m going to make them strip down and jump into a lake. Hmm … I just might!)

Until then, I leave you with this advice …

Be free. Be wild. Be YOU!

(With or without your clothes on!)

Question: What’s your favorite form of “play”? And how does it help you decompress and de-stress? Share in the comments below.

P.S. There’s no one who understands the value of “play” more than my sweet pup, Joyful George. Check out his latest antics  here