Play: A Prescription for Health?

Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humour.  ~Stuart Brown

I recently spent an evening with my closest friends. As we talked, we noticed with increasing alarm, how all-consuming our lives had become. It seemed that everyone was contending with some sort of personal crisis or feeling the enduring stress of the daily grind. Chalk it up to life as an adult, right?  

One of our girlfriends had been a going through a particularly difficult time. Facing a cross-roads in her life, she had expressed feeling overwhelmed and lost. Each of us in turn, had given her advice, offered her a shoulder to cry on and delivered our best pep talk. Despite our well intentioned efforts, she still felt powerless. Everything seemed too complicated, too heavy and too..... formidable. Additional advice was not going to help her get through and face the difficulty ahead. What she really needed was a break. A respite from the burden of making a decision and the feelings associated with it. She needed to laugh and to feel buoyant, even for a moment.

We often try to guide people through crisis by approaching it from a rational perspective. We are told the best way to resolve an issue is to think it through, make a list or talk to someone. But is this the only way to be supportive? Are there instances where this serves only to increase their confusion and negativity? What if what that person really needs is to get out of their head?  
If what is required is a moment to let go and just be? Is simple play sometimes the best prescription? 

Her birthday was approaching so we planned a good 'ol fashioned party replete with decorations, cake, goody bags, and tasty food. Since a children's party isn't complete without a theme- She-Ra: Princess of Power became our mascot for the evening. 

At first, it felt a bit silly. Are we really throwing her a children's birthday party? Aren't we too mature and sophisticated to be doing this? But as the night progressed, we got into the groove, embraced the fun, and in no time, were belting out songs at the top of our lungs (shamelessly I might add!) and dancing our booties off. The highlight of the evening was when someone broke out the bright pink skipping ropes and we all raced outside for some double dutch. Despite the fact that our skills needed a little polishing, we had a ball. We laughed and cheered each other on as we tried to recall games from our past. In that moment, we let go of our have to's, not enough's, and what if's, and simply allowed ourselves to play. It was liberating.

The following day there was a sense of gratitude. We expressed how fortunate we were to have one another and remarked on how much we had enjoyed ourselves. The evening proved to be rejuvenating and grounding, for everyone. Sure, the realities of life hadn't disappeared and there were still decisions to be made, but we felt better equipped to face them.

It was a great lesson. Perhaps one that we need to be reminded of once and a while. As adults we are sometimes so consumed by our lives that we forget that there is fun to be had. So, when life is getting you down, and all you feel is the weight, remember to take a moment to play. 

From my inner child to yours,