As a class we have been using some of our lesson time to explore the childhood games we played when we were at school, in an attempt to trigger our childlike mentality and get us in a frame of mind where we can re-engage with the emotions and feelings experienced when doing so. We hoped by doing this it will give us a better insight when approaching Theatre in Education.
It is surprising how much adrenaline kicks in when playing these games, and how immediate our natural ‘fight or flight’ response is, despite knowing their is no actual threat and that it is just a game – especially when playing chasing games such as ‘what’s the time mister wolf’! I think it is partly because of out need and desire to win and the competitive streak in us is heightened even more which makes the intensity and thrill even more pronounced. Obviously as adults we know the outcome of the game has no meaning or significance, yet we still seem to take it so seriously.
After doing these activities in lessons and briefly discussing the effects it has on us as young adults it made me curious as to why we act in this way. So I began researching the psychology behind the benefits of Adults playing and the reasons to why we react to these childhood activities in the way we do. I found out that play is not just essential for kids; and is a greatly important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing is a means of fuelling your imagination, creativity, problem solving abilities, and emotional wellbeing. While play is crucial for a child’s development, it is also beneficial for people of all ages, including adults. Play can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.
Play has been proven to:
Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.
Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.
Erica shared an anecdote with our class about how she starts all her adult drama classes and workshops or team building programmes with a game of some kind for most of the above reasons as it generally stimulates better connection between the group and allows the individual to feel freer, more relaxed and care free in themselves. Apparently lots of work places and companies are increasingly introducing games, activities, relaxation or events as part of the working day in an attempt to stimulate the minds of their workers and strive towards a boost in productivity and innovation. According to my research, success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work, it depends upon the quality of the work; and the quality of work is highly dependent on a person’s well-being. Taking the time to replenish yourself through play is one of the best ways of encouraging this. When you play, you engage the creative side of your brain and silence your ‘inner editor’ – the psychological barrier that censors your thoughts and ideas. By doing this the individual is often re-enlightened and able to face their situation in a new light and think up fresh, creative solutions.
Playing at work is said to:
- keeps you functional when under stress
- refreshes your mind and body
- encourages teamwork
- increases energy and prevents burnout
- triggers creativity and innovation
- helps you see problems in new ways
The kinds of people that are more prone to limiting their playfulness or find entering a childlike state difficult, are usually possible that are self-conscious and concerned about how others will judge them when letting go or attempting to be lighthearted. Fearing rejection, embarrassment or ridicule when attempting to be playful is an understandable fear. Adults are often worried that being playful will get them labeled as childish; but obviously in this case this is the idea of the exercise as unlike adults children are not held back by the same barriers and as a result are incredibly creative, inventive and are constantly learning. By setting aside regular, quality playtime it is easier to reclaim your inner child and face the world with the same free mind set you had when you were a child!