The Serious Stakes of Play

I recently read the book Delirium. In this book, love is a disease. When you turn 18, you undergo a procedure to be immunized to it. Along with a loss of love, this procedure also takes away your passion. Afterwards, many people lose interest in old hobbies, don’t bother keeping in touch with old friends, stop noticing beauty.

Sounds an awful lot like real-world adulthood, doesn’t it?

Over time, it feels like life becomes all schedules and to-dos. Eat this, not that. Finish the project, prep for the meeting. Cook dinner, do the laundry. Don’t forget to hit the gym. Even TV becomes more about tuning out than real enjoyment.

What is it that we’re losing along the way? Play.

And play is seriously important–particularly for creativity.

Problem solving and creativity
Play is more than a fun break. It refreshes your mindset and allows you to approach problems in new ways. Play also encourages teamwork. And it’s not surprising that bringing the spirit of play to work can reduce and even prevent burnout.

Play with another person, even a stranger, can cultivate connection and intimacy–did you know flirting was a kind of play? With play, our relationships become more joyful and more resilient.

Mental health
Not surprisingly, play reduces stress. It makes us more flexible and adaptable. And because play strengthens relationships, we are less likely to become lonely, anxious or depressed.

Play doesn’t have to mean pulling out your old dolls or a board game. It just means doing something for the sheer pleasure of it. Just because it’s fun.

The joy of play is something we can capture and carry with us all the time. It’s not an activity but a state of being. Start integrating little actions of play into your daily life, and that spirit will start to spread.


So tell me … how do you play? 


4 thoughts on “The Serious Stakes of Play

  1. Stuck in the tedium of the day-job, I find irreverence is a good form of play. Sure, you have to do the job and earn a living, but where’s the fun in being a stuffed shirt? You can still be the astronaut or pirate you wanted to be when you were little, no matter what line of work you’re in. Take it just seriously enough, but never take it too seriously.

    • It’s true. I sometimes feel like I’m on a treadmill with my day job too–and I’m lucky enough to be a full-time writer who gets paid to do what I love. Seems to be an inescapable piece of the 9-to-5 life.

  2. What great timing. I’ve just been thinking I need to set aside time to play and have fun (had to look “fun” up in the dictionary – it’s been so long). I notice my brain goes on strike when I forget to slow down and enjoy life. And believe me, I can’t afford that to happen too often. So it’s time to fall into fun, joy, and creativity again. Thanks for reminding me, Emily. You’re invited to have fun all day, too.

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