Why Is Play So Important For Adults?

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Sometimes, it’s easy for me to forget about the importance of having fun.  It’s all too easy to get sucked into responsibility, financial obligations, work, being productive, and getting things done.  That’s what it means to be an adult.  I mean, the idea of thinking about play for adults is… immature to say the least.  Right?

I am slowly starting to remember how wrong this is, and how being deprived of play as a child and as an adult has significant negative consequences.  In fact, deprivation of play can result in increased anxiety, depression, narcissism, suicide, feeling that you don’t have control over your life, and a diminished ability to problem solve.

Our culture is in serious need of more play, and that includes more play for adults.

"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation."

Why Is Play So Important For Adults?

What Happens When You Start Playing

So what good things start to happen when you prioritize play for adults?  I am going to make this short and simple so you can read it, get motivated, and then have enough time to actually go play.

Positive effects of play:

  • Increased creativity
  • Better problem solving skills
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Increased socialization skills
  • Stress-relieving
  • Promotes incresed passion and inner drive
  • Helps memory, decision-making, and other higher order brain functions

Nowadays we are prioritizing intelligence, school, learning, and other academic forms of growth.  Don’t get me wrong- these are integral and important forms of learning more about yourself and the world around you- but not at the expense of play.

What Does It Mean To Play For Adults?

Kids don’t need to be told that they need to play or even how to play… they do it automatically.  This is part of the joy of being a child, not doing things to impress others or to build your resume, but doing things just because they are fun and stimulate your senses.

Take a cue from watching the children in your life, or remember the things you used to do as a child to have fun.  Think back to the most clear and joyful image you have of play from your childhood.  How did you feel?  What were you doing?

This can also be a sign to what your passion is in life, what drives you and what makes you feel fulfilled.

Neoteny is the retention of immature qualities into adulthood, and this is actually important.  This quality is what can allow you to be adaptable, open-minded, and approach your life with curiosity, playfulness, and lightheartedness.

Bowling as play for adults

How You Can Start Playing As An Adult

Here are some examples of what it means to play for adults:

  • Play a musical instrument or sing.
  • Create something: Color, knit, crochet, redecorate, upcycle thrift store furniture, create a vision board, etc.
  • Take an acting class.
  • Play video games or go to an arcade.
  • Play board or card games with friends or family.
  • Tell scary stories by the fire.
  • Do something active and fun: Take a Zumba class, join a soccer team, go to a theme park, play paintball, go bowling, go to a trampoline park, etc.
  • Play with animals: Play fetch or go to a dog park with your dog, a laser game with your cat, etc.
  • Play with children: As previously stated, children are the best teachers for play.  Play hide and seek, imaginative or pretend play, or just go outside and run around.

Become fully immersed in whatever you choose to do without worrying about whether or not there is a purpose or what the outcome will be.  Once you start thinking about those things then it is no longer play, you have made it into a task or responsibility or goal to be accomplished just like everything else.

Whatever you choose, choose something that you truly enjoy and you look forward to doing and forget the rest!

Plan play into your schedule

How To Integrate Play Into Your Life

I’m sure you have gotten to the point where you really want to start doing something but it continually gets pushed down the priority list by things that are more important.  Then by the time you actually have time to do it, you are too tired and just tell yourself, “I’ll make time for it tomorrow.”

The problem is that tomorrow never comes, and your life becomes dictated by the things you have to do instead of the things you really want to do to feel happier and more fulfilled.

This stops today.  I want you to take out your planner, calendar, phone- whatever it is you use to plan things out.  I want you to schedule play into your calendar right now.

Start with the following simple plan each week:

  • 15 minutes per day of a small activity (such as coloring, playing an instrument, or playing a video game).
  • 30 minutes to one hour per week of a large activity (such as an exercise class, bowling with friends, or playing with a niece or nephew).

I know you can find the time for this, and once you do you will start to notice an improvement in your mood and life satisfaction.

You can also take into consideration the following broad categories to help integrate more play in your life overall:

  • Bringing play to work.
  • Bringing play into your relationships.
  • Bringing play to your time spent alone.

 “The opposite of play is not work- it is depression.”

So there you have it.  Go play catch, laugh with a friend, or pull out a deck of cards and play solitaire… I don’t care what you do, as long as you have fun while you’re doing it!

Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips for how to integrate more play into your life.



This One Thing Will Lead To Increased Happiness
Why Play Is So Important For Adults

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Tati Garcia LPC
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I’m a high-functioning anxiety coach.

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