If you’ve never had the chance to hang out with a bunch of play therapists, I highly recommend the experience. They are a friendly, silly, eloquent, and quite playful crowd of people.
I got to spend a weekend recently with a group of play therapists. The entire weekend revolved around education and helping us to become better therapists, but I noticed a few wonderful things, which work so well in the context of just being with play therapists, but could translate into the rest of the world, if we made a bit of effort.
There was no judgment that weekend. We could all relax, because it was safe to be as real and as goofy as we really are. What would it be like to live in a place where people embrace each other for their oddities and imperfections rather than demeaning others for their differences? It sounds crazy, but it is possible, we just have to do it.
We got to enjoy the silly little things and learn from them. I was asked to put googlie eyes on rocks, turn a paper plate into a dream catcher, and to breathe like a frog that weekend. All of these tasks were for the sake of mental health and emotional growth, as well as for fun.
Fun wasn’t frowned on, it was embraced. So often we get caught up in our stressful and rigid lives and thoughts. Too often we filter out the positive moments and the entertaining experiences that we could be having because we seem to wear positivity blinders. In his book The Happiness Advantage Shawn Achor discusses how our minds are built to filter and categorize things, which works to our advantage and disadvantage. This is very helpful! It helps us recognize poisonous snakes from harmless ones, and appropriate clothing for an evening out with friends versus appropriate attire for work. However, if we are only filtering for problems that need to be solved, we cannot recognize the things that are working already.
I know that the entire world can’t be play therapists, and I’m sure there would still be problems to tackle if it were, but it was really nice to just have fun with other people who wanted to play. I fully intend to continue using those experiences and to keep playing outside of that conference. It made me realize, though, that we underrate the importance of play in our adult lives.
When was the last time you played a board game, hide and seek, or patty cake? When was the last time you played a sport not as competition, but for fun? It doesn’t have to be difficult, and cultivating the habit of play can be as simple as a few rounds of tic tac toe with your partner. It’s important to take our relationships and marriages seriously, but it’s also important for them to be fun. If you’re not having fun in your relationship, I prescribe a daily dose of play!
I hope that this week you can take some time to smile. I hope that you can enjoy a space of non-judgement and embrace your playful side.
Be kind. Have fun. Keep breathing.
Nyssa Hoerner is an LMFT-Associate, supervised by Bill Woodburn, LPC, LMFT, MEd, and is currently accepting new clients. Sign up for her newsletter by visiting her website at www.nyssahoernercounseling.com. To learn more about the upcoming couples group that she is co-leading please follow this link and follow the group on twitter @CouplesBootcamp. To find out about her upcoming talk on relationships please visit this link.
Photo credit: Playing in the Snow by Len “Doc” Radin, https://www.flickr.com/photos/drurydrama/