There has certainly been no shortage of curveballs in 2020. Like a swimmer caught in the undertow, just as we surface for some air — BOOM! Another wave comes and pushes us back under. If that dramatic analogy is any indication, we could all use a little breather.
Meditation, journaling, and resting are all amazing coping mechanisms, but sometimes the best medicine is good old fashioned play and joy. You may be thinking: play and joy? At a time like this? But times like this are exactly when these ancient antidotes are their most potent. Like a tension-cutting laugh after a big argument, play puts the difficult events of our lives into perspective and makes us feel safe, creative, and relaxed.
According to a Stanford study, dancing increases cognitive acuity at all ages. In fact, frequent dancing was the only physical activity they studied that offered protection against dementia (beating out bicycling, swimming, and playing golf). Beyond its long-term brain benefits, it’s also an instant conduit to golden, childlike joy.
Incorporate dance into everyday activities. Fold to the beat when you’re doing laundry. Use your steering wheel for an epic drum solo (at a stop light, of course). Do a partner dance with your vacuum cleaner. Treat your driveway like a personal runway. If you want to step it up a notch, follow LA-based choreographer Ryan Heffington on Instagram for celeb-endorsed, beginner-friendly dance classes that are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Tap into your inner child
On a recent trip to the park, I came across a man with a giant homemade bubble wand. The device, a cleverly engineered stick with large string loops, created massive bubbles that filled the air with opalescent orbs and our hearts with happiness. Adults and children alike got off their blankets and chased the soapy suds with unadulterated delight. Wonder can be activated at any age, we just need to give ourselves opportunities and permission to feel it.
Play like a kid. If you have children, dip into their toy box. If not, think back to your childhood and pick one item that reminds you of a happy memory. Think: jump rope, sidewalk chalk, pogo stick, hula hoop, bubbles. Once you have your item in mind, buy it! Then go outside and play with it.
Gamify the boring stuff
Gamification is often used by companies and marketers to encourage customers to engage with what they’re selling. Why does it work? Because games are FUN. A good life hack is to gamify your responsibilities. Add point scoring, competition, or rules of play to daily tasks to infuse energy and community into the must-do items on your list.
Incorporate a game into your week! Some ideas:
- Start a step competition with friends and family. Track your steps on your phone, Apple watch or fitness tracker. At the end of the week, whoever has the most steps wins a prize.
- Pick one in-season ingredient and challenge every member of your household to use it to cook a dish. Vote to pick a winner. Live alone? Challenge yourself to a week of new recipes — commit to one per day. Post the results on your social media to hold yourself accountable. Ask friends to vote on what you should make next.
- Put on music while you’re cleaning and challenge yourself to get every single lyric correct. If you mess up, you have to start the song over.
Make a mess
Screw the rules! Creativity happens when we break the mold. As adults, we like a clean space because it gives us a sense of control over our environment. As kids, we take control by messing things up and letting our imagination lead the way. Give your inner child permission to get a little messy and invite whimsy into your world.
Pick one or come up with your own:
- Create a fort in your living room out of pillows, blankets, and sheets.
- Have a “fight” with soft objects like socks, t-shirts, and stuffed animals.
- Hang holiday decorations up in the middle of the summer, just because.
- Get a giant piece of paper, dip your hands straight into the paint, and go to town.
How will you add play into your week? Let us know in the comments below!