PlayAlmost everyone understands that play is important for children. Play enables the development of a long list of critical life skills including; motor skills, socialization, problem solving, creativity, conflict resolution, and mental and physical health. When children are prevented from playing they become emotionally crippled. One researcher even found that most serial killers did not play as children. Scary, right?

But what about adults? What happens when grownups don’t play? A life of all work and no play (or all television and no play) does more than just make you “a dull boy”, it makes you more vulnerable to stress-related diseases, depression, interpersonal violence, and addiction.

What’s the answer? Play! Not only does play reduce stress, playful people are less likely to feel stress in their lives, and when they do, they’re better at coping with it.

Play is more a state of mind than a specific activity, and the health benefits go beyond stress relief. Regular play will make you feel better about yourself, stimulate brain activity, enable you to transform negative experiences, boost creativity and imagination, and help you connect with others.

Have you forgotten how to play? One way to get started again is to stoke the dormant play pathways in your brain and recall how you played as a child. We do this is in Step 1 of my Playing to Prosper program and it’s interesting how many people have trouble remembering what they enjoyed way back then.

Once you’ve gotten in touch with your playful child, experiment with what sounds fun and can be brought back into your life as a grownup. It could be roller skating, horse riding, basketball, crafting, storytelling, or even playing fetch with the dog. The objective is to get so involved that you forget you’re engaging in a powerful form of stress relief because you’re having so much fun.

Bottom line: Regular play simply makes people happier, and happiness is a great antidote to stress.

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