Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's Time for a Play Date!

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said

“We do not quit playing because we grow old – we grow old because we quit playing.”

Wow – isn’t that the truth.  What happens to our youthful exuberance for life as the years creep up on us?  Some would say, “Well, I don’t have the energy I used to have",  “I just can’t seem to get away”, or  “My health issues have limited me.”  Could it be that it is exactly the opposite?  Should the answers be more along the lines of  “Maybe I don’t have the energy because I’ve been sitting down too long?”  “Is the reason I don’t get away because I don’t take the time to plan?”  “Are my have health issues because I haven’t made health a priority?”  

The benefits of “play” are well documented.  Research has consistently found that there is a positive association between social interaction, exercise, and mental stimulation – ie: PLAY, and good health. 

Play is sometimes defined as anything that gives us joy. A better definition may be anything that gives us joy and expands us as human beings.  Our favorite television program may give us joy but is it improving us and expanding who we are as people?  Doubtful. On the other hand, going on a walk in nature, taking a trip, spending time with family, baking a cake, eating right, volunteering, taking a part time job, or visiting a friend - all of these not only give us joy – but also expand our horizons.  Making these choices allows us to give more, make us more interesting, enhance our relationships, and as a result, we feel more alive.

I recently joined a group of 250 women in my community over the age of 55 called The Golden Girls.  Their mission is to connect, to find common interests, and to serve one another. In essence, to find the joy of human interaction.  They meet up in groups of 10 or 12, or sometimes even 50 or more and plan events, excursions, exercise groups, and service projects. They enhance each others' lives and support each other in difficult times. What a breath of fresh air.  Their mission – TO PLAY! 

So what’s stopping us?  If the thought is, “well, I’m pretty much a couch potato,” how do we motivate ourselves to peel the potato and get up off the couch?  It’s really one question. Is what you are doing right now making you a better human being?  If the answer is “hmmm, I’m not sure,” or “I’ll deal with that question tomorrow, I’m just too tired”, then clearly you need to find more time to PLAY!  Reach out to your community, visit your local YMCA, spend some time with family, or the ultimate way to incorporate joy in your life – SERVE!  You’ll be astonished at the joy the addition of play can bring to your life.

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