Do you even know what you like to do for fun anymore?
This has been an interesting question/thought that I’ve been playing with and journaling about because I have had the horrifying realization that…
a) I wasn’t sure I knew what I liked to do for fun which made me feel like the stodgiest dullest woman on the planet (until I found out I wasn’t alone – I mean who doesn’t know what’s fun? Um…apparently a lot of us).
b) I knew absolutely that I wasn’t doing any of the things I knew I liked to do.
Playing and having fun is HARD if you get so caught up in work and producing that you don’t take the time for yourself or just to have fun.
It sounds SO weird to say, “I forgot how to play.” But the reality is, if you don’t do something, it doesn’t come as easily. Also, there’s that whole guilt thing that strikes if you stop working, which makes it that much harder to create time in your schedule for fun and play.
Thank God, playing is truly like riding a bike. You might be a little wobbly at first, but you can STILL ride/play! You just gotta get on the play train.
But, getting on can be a problem if you forgot how to play. Or, if you’re not sure what even qualifies as play.
What “counts” as play?
There’s a ton of research on playing, on the neurological benefits, the emotional and psychological benefits, and on the evolutionary foundations of play.
Yet even with all of the research, defining play is super hard because what I think of us fun and playful might sound horribly boring (quilting/playing catch) or terrifying (bungee jumping) to someone else. So, rather than a definition, Dr. Stuart Brown in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul provides characteristics of play that qualify an activity as play.
Dr. Brown’s Characteristics of Play
- Apparently purposeless (done for it’s own sake)
- Inherent Attraction – meaning we find it fun and it feels good to do
- Freedom from time – we lose ourselves and time passes without us realizing it
- Diminished consciousness of self – we let go of what other people think about us or if we look smart, or good, or awkward.
- Improvisational potential – it’s not rigid, we can be flexible and creative in how we approach whatever we’re doing
- Continuation desire – we want to keep doing it or do it again
This list makes play a little more “technical” and some of the items on my list below don’t hit each element. For example, I’m not sure that there’s any improvisational potential in reading a book, but for me, reading hits all of the other properties.
The first step in getting back to play is to actually remember what you used to do for fun.
And I’m going to add a caveat here – try to think of those things you did/do while totally sober, like when you were a kid. While going out and getting trashed with your friends can be fun, if that’s the ONLY way you’re playing as an adult…I’ll just say it…that’s not the healthiest way to play. And it can actually be numbing and avoiding life rather than actually embracing life and playing.
To discover what I really enjoyed doing and what would “count” as play for me, I actually did a play history and created a playlist. It’s something I found super interesting and fun.
Create Your Play List
To create a play history, open a notebook and list everything that you loved to do as a kid. NOT things that you did out of social obligation or because all of your friends did it, but those things you did totally on your own or with your best friend(s).
For example, when I was totally on my own or with my best friend or sister, I would:
- play spider solitaire with actual cards that I had to shuffle
- play Risk, Monopoly, or Backgammon with my sister
- climb trees
- rollerskate and create “routines” to music – we had Abba and John Denver records so those were the soundtracks
- hike up this mountain behind my house to a “fort” we had
- make forts
- play chase
- ride my bike
- write stories, or at least plot stories – I remember plotting them out more than I remember actually writing them
- play dress-ups – we had a whole chest of fun clothes
- play Barbies/stuffed animals – and by this, we would actually spend hours creating houses/palaces for them. I don’t really remember actually playing with the barbies or animals after we finished creating their “spaces” but we’d create elaborate stories and create the “settings” for them and get the Barbies all dressed and ready for…something.
- go to the library while my mom went to her exercise class and find new books to read
- rock hop at Sand Harbor at Tahoe – I could climb rocks for hours, literally until the bottoms of my feet would bleed!!
- ski with the city ski program – every week from the time I was 7-14 with all of my friends
As I got older and could drive, I would…
- ski – a definite benefit of growing up near mountains. I skied 2-3 times a week in high school and loved it. There’s NOTHING like flying down a mountain. It’s thrilling and scary and challenging and FUN!!!
- sew – once I finally got my mom to teach me how to do it in high school. Why I never took home ec is beyond me.
- craft projects
- go to the beach at Tahoe
What’s so interesting about this list is that I STILL love to do some of the things on it: hike, read, ride my bike, hang out with friends, and write stories. Sadly, I’ve left my rollerskating and rock-hopping career behind.
And, when I look at the official “properties of play” listed above, all of these activities qualify as play. What didn’t make my list is pretty interesting too – I did a lot of organized sports and while I enjoyed those with friends, I rarely played/practiced at home on my own which tells me that I probably did those things because my friends did them not because I loved them.
Once you go through your list, circle those things that you still do.
Then, circle those things that you’d LIKE to do.
Write them on a new list, your PLAYLIST and keep this list handy!
Now, choose ONE and either do it right now OR put that ONE thing on your calendar. Even if it’s for only ten or fifteen minutes tomorrow, PLAN it.
That’s how adding play to every day starts…by actually playing a little bit and doing something that brings you happiness and joy every day.
Once you start planning play, you’ll find it’s easier to open up to spontaneous play.
And hey, you gotta start somewhere.
One of the most interesting comments I’ve had from a highly motivated woman during a talk about play was when she said, “Play doesn’t necessarily come easily for me. Just because it’s fun, doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
And this is true.
It can be hard to let go a little and play because in comes the guilt, the resentment that you’re doing something that you don’t feel is even fun, the boredom.
There are a TON of mindset blocks keeping us from playing and having fun, and the first way to start taking a sledge-hammer to those blocks is to really clarify what you like to do for fun.
So, take a few minutes and create your Play List and schedule in some FUN this week!
In the comments, I’d love for you to share any discoveries you made about how you love to spend your time.