The Surprising Power of Play!

Dr. Sheran MattsonReflection

Play for Life

play-for-life-logo_1How much smarter would we be if we played more? Play is often dismissed as a waste of time or frivolous, when actually it contributes to more productivity, joyful living and better relationships. Play helps us sleep better, supports wellness, enhances creativity, and reduces stress. Endorphins are released in the brain as we play. Valuable chemicals soar through the body. We feel more balanced and have a more positive outlook when we play and suffer when we don’t. It is a proven fact that children learn and develop through play. We adults need play as much as we need nutrition and exercise for our body and mind to work well and heal. In his book Play, author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, compares play to oxygen.

Babies and young children do this so naturally. I remember watching my granddaughter spending time looking through colored plastic lids and exploring her new world of color with fascination. I was so excited to think how she was discovering a new way of seeing. Such a simple a toy!!! No expensive tools or video equipment needed.  When did it get so hard for us “grown-ups” to play?

Psychiatrist and writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Play, Creativity, and Lifelong Learning: Why Play Matters for Both Kids and Adults, 2012) describes play as a flow state.


Involvement— Complete focus and concentration, either due to innate curiosity or as the result of training.
Delight— A sense of bliss and positive detachment from everyday reality.
Clarity— Great inner clarity and a built-in understanding about the state of affairs.
Confidence— An innate sense that the activity is doable and that your skills are adequate to the task. Additionally, you don’t feel anxious or bored.
Serenity–A sense of peace and an absence of worry about self.
Timeliness— Thorough focus on the present and a lack of attention to the passing of time.
Motivation – Intrinsic understanding about what needs to be done and a desire to keep the moment of play moving.

Now is the time to grow up and play!!!

Here is how to get more play in your life:

  • Schedule play time on your calendar-make it a habit to pay attention to how much you play.
  • Find a child to play with-get down on their level and let them lead the action.
  • Experiment with activities-walk around toy stores, dollar stores, or look on line for new ideas.
  • Seek out playful people and activities that are new to you!
  • Notice how much more fun your work is when you incorporate a playful spirit!!