Here it is, the third week of January…and how are those resolutions coming along? If you followed my recipe for success, they are probably coming along quite nicely! Of course, if you actually want to make some changes, you may already be struggling to stay focused on your goals.

Resolutions are often of the “lose 10 pounds” or “eat healthier” variety—those things that we know we should do but often let fall by the wayside as we get caught up in the day-to-day swirl that consumes us. By the third week of January, a lot of us have let go of these goals and added another checkmark to our failure list.

While some of us don’t actually make resolutions, I believe it’s important to pause and evaluate what’s what. I don’t personally make “official” resolutions, but I do think about changes that I would like to make in the coming year and aim for them. And I know one of mine that should most likely be one of yours, as well:

Play more.

We need to purposefully make ourselves seek out fun. Not just because it’s fun to play…but because our brains literally benefit from it. You may remember my love of Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. In it, Schulte provides solid research about our need for play. Need. Not want. Play allows our brains to reenergize and function better. Without it, our brains don’t get bounce-back time…and our brains need that in order to perform more effectively.

 

Dogs know how to play...so should we
Dogs know how to play…so should we

 

Schulte also explains how this is a particular need for women—that women are historically encouraged to feel that we need to earn our play time or at least be productive while we’re at it (quilting bee, anyone?) Historically men have set aside playtime with little or no guilt, but women…well, we all too often feel guilty for having fun. (Remember this is a gender generalization—I’m sure some of you guys feel guilty playing golf or having poker night, so don’t whine at me. We are talking about historical fact here, people.)

We all need to give ourselves permission to have fun. We need to look at the world around us and not just see the work that needs doing but the fun that needs having. And we need to do it without guilt. Making free time (gasp!) for play is not a crime, though our culture of busyness often makes it feel that way.

 

skating
all seasons offer unique play opportunities

 

I don’t know about you, but I almost always have a cloud of “shoulds” over my head no matter what I’m doing—including play time. If I’m playing a game with my son, I’m remembering that email I need to follow up on. If I’m going to watch a favorite show, I should probably do it while folding laundry or ironing. And if I choose not to be productive while I’m watching, then there’s a little pang of guilt that pokes at me.

Sound familiar? Schulte describes that as “contaminated time.” We may be doing something leisurely, but responsibilities keep creeping in and contaminating the time—reducing the positive effects of play.

SO…what would it look like if you made a resolution to play more? It would show up in both little and big ways. Playing that game with your child and being fully present (no thoughts of work!) or simply going for a bike ride and breathing in the fresh air. Or maybe it’s simply letting yourself get lost in a book. And when guilt or worry creeps in, recognize it and tell it to scram. This is play time, bucko.

 

a birthday treat from a few years ago
a birthday treat from a few years ago

 

Playing in bigger ways is also important. Maybe there is something you’ve always been wanting to do but haven’t made the time for it. Make it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw a pot (like, on a pottery wheel…not across the room, though if you find that fun, go for it) in order to reenact the scene from Ghost where Patrick Swayze does his own kind of pot-throwing. Or perhaps you’d love to know what it feels like to drive a race car. Or ride a horse. Maybe it’s something as simple as setting aside a monthly play night with some friends that you treat as sacred—that time is non-negotiable for anything else.

However it works for you—play more. You don’t need permission. You don’t have to earn it. If people give you that elitist crap about “must be nice to have time to do X,” don’t let it make you feel like you have to justify yourself. Do it and don’t feel guilty. Do it and be fully present. Do it to help your brain grow stronger.

I know I’m sounding like a Nike commercial, but it’s true: just do it. Play.

You’re worth it.

 

All photos are my own.
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