03 October 2011

Go out and Play

Have you ever stopped to think of advice that you give to other people?  Have you asked yourself sincerely whether or not you follow that advice yourself, or do you just dispense it and forget about it, figuring that the advice is good for someone else, but that you don't need to heed it?  One of the best pieces of advice that we can take ourselves actually isn't even given as advice, but as an order to the kids:  Go out and play!

Most of us could use a bit more play in our lives.  For some reason or another that makes little real sense, most of us give up playing as we grow older.  Most of us seem to think that playing is "for kids," not something that we adults should partake in.  But why not?  Regular play has a lot of very real benefits for us, including improving our health, lowering our blood pressure, helping us to laugh and have fun, helping us to bond with others, and helping us to keep things in perspective.  A good dose of play can help us to see that the problems we've been dealing with are simply problems, and not world-changing conflicts.  Taking the time to play a game or two with friends or family can help us to relax, keeping our stress levels at more manageable heights.

And it matters what you play, too.  Playing a few hands of high-stakes poker isn't really playing at all--it's adding to stress in your life.  A good game of wiffle ball or Frisbee, on the other hand, has many benefits for you as long as you don't take it too seriously, and as long as you enjoy yourself thoroughly.

There's lots of stress in all of our lives.  But that's okay--that's life.  The important question for us to ask ourselves is whether or not we're doing anything to compensate for that stress.  And the next time that you feel a bit overwhelmed, the next time you can't see the light at the end of a tunnel, take the advice that your parents used to give you when you were a kid to maintain their own mental health--Go out and play!  This time, though, do it for you.

We don't stop playing because we grow old;
we grow old because we stop playing!

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