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The Importance of ‘Play’

October 23, 2017


When I hear the word ‘play’ I think of children in the schoolyard at recess. These are some of my happiest moments in primary school. Becoming engrossed in a game of tag or mothers and fathers. Time would fly and I would became so involved in my imaginary world that I wouldn't even hear the bell ring.


Research has shown the importance of playtime for children. It promotes both physiological and psychological development. It helps them better understand their strengths and limitations. It helps them explore and learn more about themselves and their place in the world.


But what are the benefits of play for an adult? And what does play for adults look like?


In Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book ‘Flow’ he talks about the importance of engaging in activities where we lose ourselves. Where we become so engrossed in what we are doing that hours have flown by without even realising it. Similar to what a child experiences during play.


For adults their play activity may be a creative pursuit like painting, doing something physical like hiking, or it could be as simple as having a deep conversation with a friend.


Csikszentmihalyi made several observations about flow activities. One of them being that the activity should neither be too hard nor too easy. When it is challenging enough to engage you without being too difficult to feel like hard work, this is the place where we can get into the flow. At the time we may not be particularly aware of it being an enjoyable activity, it’s not until we stop and reflect on the process that we feel a sense of satisfaction and pleasure from what we have just done.


You can tell you are in a flow activity when your self-consciousness disappears and you’re unaware of all distractions, you are completely engrossed in what you are doing.


It’s important to spend time in flow activities because like children, this helps our physiological and psychological development. We never stop growing as people, no matter how old we are. Flow activities teach us about ourselves and our place in the world. Shedding light on our capabilities and increasing self - esteem. They also result in the production of dopamine and overall sense of joy and satisfaction.


Do you know what your flow activities are? For those of you who have no idea the best way to find out is to try new things. Have you ever looked at an activity and thought, ‘I’d like to try that’. It could be learning a new instrument, joining a sporting team, taking a photography class. What’s stopping you? Now is the time.


For those of you who DO know what your flow activities are, how many hours a week are you investing into that activity? Would you like to be spending more time doing that thing? 

Often people feel guilty about ‘wasting’ time on their hobby. There are always jobs to be done and people to see. But remember spending time in flow will improve your overall well-being, especially your emotional and mental state. Taking time out for yourself is not selfish. It enables you to be the best version of yourself so that you can love and serve the people around you better.



Action Steps


1.    Write down your flow activities.


2.    Write down why your flow activity is meaningful to you. (This step is important because knowing why it’s meaningful will provide motivation to do it).


3.    Set yourself the goal of how many hours a week (or month) you will do this activity.


4.    Mark your calendar and make sure you schedule your flow activity.


Engaging in flow activities help us switch off from the stress and pressures we experience in our day to day living. It returns us to our childhood state of playful engagement with the world around us.


If you are feeling overwhelmed or burnt-out, schedule in some time to be childlike and engage in your flow activities. Feel free to email me to tell me what your flow activities are.


Enjoy being in flow!





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