Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.
Play is for kids.
It’s true: play is essential to the learning and development of young humans but research shows that humans at all ages need play to thrive. But while adults might play an instrument or play a sport or go see a play or even be in a play, we don’t tend to think of play as an adult activity.
In fact, notice if you feel resistance to play as something that is silly, immature or a waste of time. If that’s the case, entertain the notion that playing is just tinkering with something that you already do. What if play can be helpful when you get stuck in habit, in an unhelpful pattern, or when you’re searching for a solution?
Here are 5 ways to play that you might not have considered before and that just might shift something that needs shifting:
1. Play with something you do every day
Take a simple thing you do every day — brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or driving to work – and see what happens when you play with doing the repetitive process with variations. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand or while standing in the dining room or with a different kind of toothpaste. Wash the dishes while whistling, do them more slowly or wash them as you dirty them instead of waiting for the sink to be full. Drive a different route to work, without the radio on (if you usually have it on) or with it on (if you don’t), see how many out of state plates you see. Take a habitual, repetitive action and play with it.
2. Play with something you think every day
Notice repetitive thoughts — that thing you always think when you see yourself in the mirror, or about the drivers who are in the wrong lane or when it’s time to do that thing you don’t love to do. Notice what you think every day and play with thinking something different:
“I’ve made that mistake before. Here’s space to get in front of me.”
“This is going to go easefully.”
Take a habitual and repetitive thought and play with it.
3. Play with someone you see every day
Relationships can become habitual and repetitive especially if we see them regularly. Play with greeting people differently or instead of asking how they are, compliment them or say how good it is to see them. Over the evening meal, ask a different question:
“What was surprising today?”
“What was funny today?”
“What did you learn today?”
Take a habitual and repetitive relationship and play with it.
4. Play with something you’re learning
If you’re starting something new or learning a new skill, allow some play into the process. Whatever you’re learning, repeat it and practice it with variations. If you’re learning something physical, like a dance step or a soccer skill or how to mince garlic, do it slowly then do it with one eye closed, then while humming L’il Liza Jane. Memorizing a speech or French verb conjugations? Whisper them, say them while walking the dog or make them into a little song.
Take a new skill and play with it.
5. Play with something you’re stuck on
Maybe you are having trouble solving a problem or making a decision. Maybe a creative project is stalled and you’re not sure what to do next. If you’re stuck, what the hey, you might as well play with it. Write about it in a journal – stream of consciousness style or write the question with your dominant hand and the answer with your non-dominant hand. Ask your twenty-years-older-than-you-are-now self what to do next. Take one small step in any direction and see how it feels.
Take a problem and play with it.