play. every damn day.

 Seven Magic Mountains

Seven Magic Mountains

Do whatever it is that you are meant to do here. If you're a mover, move. If you're a shaker, shake. Whether you create masterpieces out of clay, paint, food, photos, words, or fabric - create. Wherever your path leads you, go there with all of your heart. If you're a builder, build something that you can be proud of. If you're a chef, cook something that you wish you could share with the entire world. If you're a dancer, move people with your movement. And if you don't know what your path is yet, think back to when you were young. What did you love to do for play? When is the last time you did that? When is the last time you built a sandcastle or made a snow angel? Or finger painted? And why not? Your path may have nothing to do with building snow men, but I'd be willing to bet if you let yourself get lost in play, you'd find yourself, find your path, and find your purpose.

Most animals in the wild have been observed playing. If you have an animal, you know they love to play. They've actually done studies on baby rats to study the affects of play deprivation, versus normal play on the brain and the results are pretty incredible. There have been a few different studies done. To sum it up, rats who experienced play deprivation did not possess the social skills necessary to be a functional adult rat, they were unable to differentiate appropriate from inappropriate aggression (appropriate as in normal rough and tumble play), and in another study they found that the play deprived rats had a more immature pattern of neuronal connections in the medial prefrontal cortex - which would basically mean that they would have had trouble socializing and integrating. Of course, we're not rats and our brains may not respond the exact same way, but there's definitely a correlation between play and overall mental health. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. 

From my own experience, I've also found that if I am at work trying to force a good idea or if I've been sitting and trying really hard to write for too long, nothing comes. I solve problems better, write better, and think more clearly when my mind is relaxed. Luckily for me, in my current job I go back and forth between teaching classes and doing actual "work" (teaching is my job, but it doesn't feel like it - it feels like play!), I get to go "play" for an hour and then sit back down and work on my projects. After I've "played", I'm more relaxed, which also equates to more focus. Play is inspiring. So when I sit back down to work, my mind isn't jumping all over the place. I nail down one thing at a time. There are of course days when I go in to work specifically to work on things I haven't had time for, and those days I am usually not teaching a class. I can honestly say that it takes me longer, I tend to jump from one project to the next without getting much done, and my mind feels like a bull stuck in a room with brick walls just ramming into one wall, backing up and ramming into another wall without making a dent in any of them. Once I notice that, it's time to get up and move. Take some deep breaths, take a little walk, stretch, do something. When I come back, I am almost always more focused and ready to get things done. 

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There is a really great book out there by Brigid Schulte called Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love & Play When No One Has the Time. And if you want to learn more about the importance of play and of balance I highly recommend reading it. It has totally changed my idea of how work should be done and I love it. I plan on rereading it if I ever start to feel overwhelmed again. Which, let's be honest, I probably will. I have almost always worked multiple jobs, and I definitely used to be a workaholic. Just working multiple jobs that were not satisfying or rewarding in any way. Things that I didn't really like but I was good at. I would put in long hours, I would always offer to stay late. I have worked 23 hours straight, slept 3 hours, and went back to work for another 16. Even now, I find myself wanting to say yes to every work opportunity that comes up and agreeing to take on more projects than I can logistically complete given the amount of hours I want to put in. So this is kind of a constant battle for me. Now it's almost harder because I love most of my jobs. I love being there and it's rewarding - but I find I have less time for my practice, less time to write, and less time to play. And at the end of a week, that's draining. 

Lose yourself in play for the sake of play. And if you're not sure where to start, take a painting class, go to an acro yoga class, or go for a hike. We all need a little play. And with busy work schedules, house work, and endless errands, we need it even more. Make the time, Schedule it. Consider it necessary for your own health and well-being. Because it is. And when you're feeling overwhelmed with the to do list,  don't ram your head into a wall - go play! The list can wait.