1.) Stop “shoulding” on your play time: Okay–we get it. You’re a grown up and you have real responsibilities and commitments. Guess what…we ALL do. We are not suggesting that you shirk those important tasks or drop the ball on your obligations. We are simply suggesting that you incorporate more minutes of guilt-free play time into your day without dragging yourself down with all of the imagined things that you should be doing instead. In fact, studies have shown that those who regularly incorporate scheduled play time into their daily routines are actually more productive than those who keep their nose to the grind-stone all day, every day.
Stop being a martyr and begin allowing your own emotional health to become a priority in your life. If a task is truly important–it will get done. If you allow yourself time to refresh and reinvigorate with some playtime, it will get done even better. Stop using “busyness” as an excuse because there is always a way to make time for the things that are truly important. Your emotional well being and enjoyment of life are worth at least the level of commitment that you give to your other tasks and responsibilities.
2.) Adopt PLAY as a way of life: Once we’ve set the intention of adding more playfulness into our days, we need to get serious about acting upon that intention. Usually, we go about living our lives doing all of the things that we need to get done and then…if we have any time or energy left over, we might allow ourselves a little snippet of time to play. Unfortunately, this approach is (as my grandpa used to say) “bass ackwards”. Instead of fitting some playtime in if we have a few extra minutes (because seriously–when is THAT ever the case?), we need to make an effort to schedule our pleasure and give it the same level of importance that we give to our “to do” list.
We can also find ways to add an element of play to our other less enjoyable chores. For example–I don’t like to cook. I’m not particularly good at it and when I’m cooking I can always think of a bazillion other things that I’d rather be doing. However–since my family seems insistent on eating, I cook out of necessity. Reading, on the other hand, is something that I LOVE and that I could easily spend hours doing. I’d much rather read than cook but my family can’t eat books, so cooking is still something that I must do. Fortunately, modern technology has allowed me a way to incorporate my love of reading into my cooking time. I simply turn on the “read to me” function on my Kindle Fire and let my device read to me while I’m cooking. I’ve found that this simple playtime tweak has actually made my time in the kitchen something that I look forward to now.
3.) Play your way: When it comes to play, we all have different styles. Every person was born with individual joy sparks that add fun and passion to what would otherwise be ordinary situations. My youngest son loves to strum his acoustic guitar and write his own songs, my hubby enjoys sports and lifting weights and my oldest son could spend hours tinkering on cars and planning camping expeditions. For me, playtime consists of reading, knitting, crocheting, writing, doing crossword puzzles and working on the FabYOUlous Life site. I get teased sometimes because many of my play time activities tend to resemble those found in a home for the elderly–but I don’t care. I know what kinds of play bring me joy and that’s all that matters. Don’t compare your fun to someone else’s fun. Just do what makes you happy. Sure–your friend’s obsession with snowboarding might inspire you to try it out, but don’t be discouraged if you’re more of a “sit in the ski lodge, drinking hot cocoa and reading a good book” kind of person. Discover what type of play makes you come alive and incorporate more of that kind of play into your life.
4.) Slow down and simplify: The idea of incorporating more play into your life should get you excited. Unfortunately however; far too many people react to this concept with overwhelm instead of delight. This happens when people are so bogged down with never ending to-do lists, deadlines and obligations that adding more play into their life just sounds like one more chore that they don’t have time for. Ironically, these people are the ones who most desperately need more play time.
If you feel like you might fall into this category, you are in serious need of simplification. To ease yourself into a more simplified way of life, try asking yourself these questions: What are your priorities? What excites you? What are your values? What drains your energy? What are you doing now that you know you need to stop doing? Are you watching too much TV/spending too much time online etc.? Are you spending your days the way that you want to be spending them? Take note of all the things that you are doing that drain your energy without feeding your spirit and see if you can eliminate or limit them. When we begin to simplify our lives, we naturally create more space in our lives for the things that bring us joy.
5.) Try some LSD: Noooooooooo!!!! I do NOT mean the mind altering, illegal substance type of LSD–it may have helped to create some great music in the 60’s but that is NOT what we’re going for here. Instead, I mean the type of LSD that Steve Chandler (author of 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself) refers to as Laughing, Singing and Dancing. One of the most energizing ways to incorporate play into our lives is to get up and get moving. I definitely do not consider myself a good singer or dancer, and yet I love to do both. I am constantly getting busted by other motorists at stoplights when they look over and catch me rocking out to my favorite 80’s hairband station. I also like to prance around the house to music whenever I get the chance. This (terrible) singing and dancing on my part always ends up leading to a fit of laughter–which is also good for us.
If dancing isn’t your thing, that’s fine–just find another form of physical movement that your body enjoys–hiking, surfing, roller skating, etc. I recently bought a bicycle (I hadn’t owned one in over a decade) and have rediscovered the joy of the wind in my hair as I pedal my legs off. Not only is this type of physical activity good for our physical well being, it’s good for our psyche as well because it is just plain FUN.
6.) Simmer down: Yes–getting physical and being loud (as outlined in the previous entry) can be a lot of fun, but so can quieter pursuits. As I mentioned earlier, I love to read, write, knit and crochet. These activities might not seem particularly “playful” but when I am doing them I am flooded with feelings of delight and joy. It is the spirit of play that is flowing through me that matters.
We all need moments of quiet play. It nourishes our spirits in a powerful way. If you find yourself constantly reaching for things that aren’t good for you (sugar, caffeine, internet shopping etc.) it might be your spirit’s way of reminding you that you need to spend more time in restorative play. We all have different needs and play types–some like more adventurous endeavors while others prefer quieter pursuits. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum–quiet, mindful play is essential for emotional well being.
7.) Go with the flow: Making time for playful activities is an important step in creating a more playful lifestyle but don’t get too hung up on the details. Maybe we plan to spend an hour knitting but the weather is nice and now a bike ride sounds more appealing–fine, go for a ride. Set aside time for play but don’t be rigid when it comes to determining what type of play you’re going to partake in. Maybe you’ll feel like shooting some hoops with your daughter, maybe you’ll feel like cooking a new dish for your family (yes–as hard as I find it to believe–some people actually enjoy cooking). Whatever playful feeling strikes you, go with it. Our bodies and spirits have an innate way of knowing what we need. If you feel a pull toward a particular playful activity, go for it. Spontaneity is good for us and allowing for some flexibility in our playful habits will help to boost the pleasure factor.
Regardless of what type of play you enjoy–be sure to make it a regular, on-going part of your life. Playfulness is one of the quickest, most direct ways to ditch the drab and find your FAB.