Play and why it is so important to help Depression, Work and Relationships

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Alan W. Watts

This is the second half of my article on the recent book I read: Play: How it shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul,written by Doctor Stuart Brown

There are two further parts of the book that touched me deeply, they concerned what is non-play and its link to depression and play and relationships. The first subject I’d like to share concerns “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression. If you check out the definition of depression:

Definition: Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply “snap out” of.

You begin to realise that play is as fundamental to happiness in life as almost anything else. Play, by its very nature is joyful, fun, generally shared with others and requires interest in the activity taking place. Almost the 180 degree opposite from depression.

Where does work come into this, you might ask? After all, as adults over a third of our adult lives are spent at work of some sort.

There is a connection between work and play. Both require one key element to be present to be successful. Creativity. According to Dr Brown “Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties….. When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out….and play at work is essential

Where companies are beginning to realise the power of play is that play is so closely connected to innovation. The speed of change and innovation in today’s business is astounding. Companies are constantly looking at new creative innovations and play is the key to innovation. As an experiment, try the following:

Try sitting in a room with a bunch of people – all silently trying to come up with a slogan for a household product. It can be any product you like. The task is to get people to sit, think, imagine and craft a slogan to sell the product. Most people will find this a complete slog, a drag, depressing even. However, get them to build a storyboard together, using cartoons, shapes, objects or even role-playing and the number of ideas, wacky slogans and group consensus on the best one will quickly emerge. And the task was made easier through play.

The final section of the book concerned relationships and play. Ok, smutty thoughts out of the way for a moment please. Without the various forms of social play, we as adults would find it very difficult to live together. As Dr Brown states… “…. play is the most important element in love” and I agree with him. Successful, long-term, mutually-agreeable, relationships are based on a number of factors:- trust, respect, interest in each other, genuine attachment, and I would say, a degree of fun and play.

In summary if you want to really understand the benefits of play; to you; to your children growing up; at work; in your social life; and in your relationships, or as the title says itself “invigorates the Soul”, then think about and encourage play in all aspects of your life.

I leave you with this thought.

“Laughter is the sound of the soul dancing. My soul probably looks like Fred Astaire.” Jarod Kintz

What does your soul look like today?

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