All work and no play…Wait, we MUST play!

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“It’s Friday, I’m in love”
-The Cure, “Friday I’m in Love”

If you work M-F, you LOVE Fridays. I know I do. Why do we love them so much? According to Tali Sharot, PhD, it is the anticipation of the weekend that makes it our favorite day of the week (as heard live at my conference last week). We worked hard all week and know just the thought of 2 days of ALL FUN gets us giddy. But what if we had fun during the week? At work? And what if it actually had a benefit? Well maybe it does…
I came across an article titled “The Business Case for Adult Recess” ( and of course I had to read it, because adult recess is something I would totally be in favor of. What it basically says is that play can be a conduit to creativity: “Most complex problems adults face in life as well as work require creative solutions, even if we don’t see them that way. Not only can play help jumpstart that creative problem-solving process, it can shake us out of the cognitive habits that are holding back our performance at so many other levels.” I don’t know how many of the five items the author lists to get play in your life will happen at work, but how great would it be if they did?
Download Tetris to your phone. Each time you feel the impulse to check your social media feeds, go play a five-minute game of Tetris instead. Why? Not only is it fun, but playing games can help you maintain focus and lengthen an attention span that your Twitter feed is out to relentlessly shorten.
According to Jane McGonigal, Ph.D. and author of
SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient — Powered by the Science of Games, getting a firmer control on your powers of attention is a crucial first step to improving your productivity. “Playing games is not a waste of time,” she writes. “It is a skillful, purposeful activity that gives you direct control over your thoughts.”
Adult coloring books have stormed the market this year — and for good reason. Picking up some crayons, markers, or colored pencils is a tamer way to unlock your play impulse. And like playing certain games, it can also help you refocus your attention.
As Brown [Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play] explains, play is a state of mind, not a specific activity. As long as it’s absorbing, essentially purposeless, and lets you enjoyably suspend your self-consciousness and sense of time, it counts. Go pick up a coloring book, turn off all your push notifications, and color one picture. After all, when was the last time you did that? It will take less than five minutes to complete, and chances are you’ll feel a little restored and relaxed when you go back to your tasks. Not to mention you’ll now have some art to put up on the fridge.
Yes, you read that correctly. It turns out science has finally vindicated what just about every romantic comedy of the past several decades has understood about the cathartic power of dancing alone. Crank up your favorite song and just dance it out. The point isn’t to showcase your Beyoncé-level talents or shame your lack thereof — it’s just to let yourself be uninhibited without fearing anyone else’s judgment.
When you dance alone, simply for the sake of play, your body will take the lead over your mind. As Brown explains it, play is one of the most basic evolutionary impulses, and physical movement can be a powerful mechanism to recall it. So get up and dance. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll be doing your brain a favor as well.
Same principle, different activity. Turn on the water, pick the first song that comes to mind, and start singing as loudly as you can. It sounds silly, and it should — that’s the point. Singing in the shower is a purposeless activity that provides enjoyment, a suspension of self-consciousness, and time. If you’re stuck in traffic, it works almost as well.
Here’s the thing: As adults, one of the biggest roadblocks to being playful is that we worry that we’ll look undignified, irresponsible, or immature. But you can’t be open to spontaneity if you aren’t comfortable with testing new ways of expressing yourself–even the most unserious of them. And when you foreclose that possibility, you miss out on a whole host of cognitive benefits children access multiple times each day.
Watching Game of Thrones is entertaining, but it’s a passive experience. To be sure, sometimes those are good, but they won’t re-energize you in quite the same way as a play-based activity can. Invite some friends over for charades (just like your parents’ generation used to do, before they invented HBO), or just play “Go Fish” with your 5-year-old. Whatever it is, you want to find yourself absorbed in the game. In fact, it only has to last five or 10 minutes in order to stimulate your brain.

So I am not much of a Tetris player, but I have either done or will do the other 4. I have been considering getting some adult coloring books for a while, as I love to paint but I either need to drag all my stuff out at home or attend a class. If I could just whip out a book and some crayons I would be all set. Solo dance party? Check. But I plan to make it happen more often. Sing in the shower? Occasionally. I will seek inspiration from my husband who ALWAYS sings in the shower. Ironically, the last few times my husband and I visited a tap room, we either played Uno or Trivial Pursuit. I did download a game called “Heads Up!” that is pretty fun too.
Imagine at your next run of the mill work meeting the organizer hands out crayons and pictures to color, or busts out the Bluetooth speaker and shakes some booty? Now that is a meeting I could get in to! And what if it had the effect of stimulating our creative minds and coming up with unique solutions to problems? Invaluable. Unfortunately I don’t go to many meetings, but if I do, I am bringing my crayons.

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