Recreational deprivation has been linked to obesity, criminality and declining creativity.  Having fun is serious business. Everyone needs to play.
We have all experienced burn-out. That dreadful feeling that almost nothing really scratches the surface of our minds, is more than an inconvenience. It’s hazardous to our health and well-being. As we become more and more isolated and structured in our daily lives, our social and moral compasses become rusty. We begin to lose some social skills and as we turn more inward, instant gratification in the form of excess calories begins to replace the laughter and delight of two minds engaged in creative activity, staying a step ahead of each other, each one urging the other on to increasingly pleasant exchanges and gestures of affection. We shut down those lines of communication and seek our joy from excess food, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. Unhealthy relationships with chemicals and less than desirable companions in an effort to light up the prefrontal cortex of our brains begin to creep into our days and suddenly, we are getting old, sick and miserable. Think about it. If you are beginning to feel some of these things, when was the last time you played?
Most play studies center around children but the same effects apply to adults. An interviewer asked me yesterday what I do for fun, other than power lift… I stalled… stumbled… backed up… and mumbled something about my dogs because dogs ARE fun, right? I used to do all kinds of fun things. I have parasailed. I swam for hours every week. I hiked the Smokies. I watched T.V. (I actually LOVE T.V. but I NEVER watch it…) I rode bikes. I traveled… Oh my! My fun meter just might need a little adjustment. I have a high stress job and people, we need balance in our lives. Studies have shown that all work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy.
The link to obesity is scary but so true. We self-medicate in the face of loneliness. Alone, we tend to be inactive and depressed. Depression is believed to be associated with heart disease and other unhealthy states. Hypertension is considered cardiac disease and is frequently found in people who are depressed and isolated. These factors combine to create a health time bomb. Obesity, high blood pressure and depression all tend to increase each other. Imagine the effect of a couple of hours of unstructured play on this vicious circle of sickness. It’s like dousing the fire of inflammation with ice water. It’s bound to slow the progress of these deadly maladies, extending not only our lives but increasing the quality of our days.
I don’t know about you but I’m going to take play more seriously from now on … Oh, wait a minute… not seriously…unstructured is better, and the next time that I’m asked what I do for fun, I plan on having a LIST. :-*