When was the last time you took a bike ride to nowhere, pulled out a coloring book, or simply spaced out under a tree? If you haven’t let your inner child out for a romp lately, here are five fantastic reasons why you should!
1. Your emotions will thank you
Just because you grow up doesn’t mean you lose your need for enjoyment and novelty. According to psychiatrist Stuart Brown, founder of The National Institute for Play, “Nothing lights up the brain like play.” Indeed, research shows that regular recreational activity can trigger the release of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin — the brain’s feel-good chemicals — which can boost your mood, lower stress levels, and promote better sleep.
2. It’s an instant loneliness buster
In a world of increasing social isolation, playing is a ready-made “social lubricant” that can propel even shy adults into making new connections. Engaging in play can be as simple as joining a sports team (bowling, anyone?), taking a pottery class, or attending a local board game meetup. Group activities bring people together, fostering social connections that go far beyond the field or card table.
3. It’s a better alternative to drinking
Many people turn to alcohol as a way to relieve stress and have “fun” when the work day is over, but as a long-term strategy, it can backfire. Painful hangovers aside, regular alcohol use has been linked to chronic health problems. What if you didn’t need to rely on an outside substance to cut loose and have a good time? Enter play: It’s a natural high that won’t leave you feeling like you need to hide under the covers the next day.
4. It’s the missing creative link
There is a link between the intentional act of letting your mind wander and greater creative energy. For instance, just the simple act of fiddling with a toy on your desk or riding a swing can ignite a spark of inspiration or produce the answer to a long-standing problem. So, if you’re feeling stymied, let your inner child out to play and daydream for a bit.
5. It can make you smarter
While playing video games isn’t guaranteed to raise your IQ, research has shown that certain types of gameplay can make your brain sharper. Thanks to neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to build and organize new neural connections), novel activities — such as playing an instrument or learning Tai Chi — have the potential to rewire your brain.
It’s official: Being a kid is back in style. When it comes to playing, the secret is choosing activities that you truly enjoy. Think back to what you loved as a child. What made you light up and come to life? As Dr. Brown says, this information holds the key to finding joy, empowerment, and enrichment in your life.
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