being a playful person

How To Prioritize Intentional Play In Your Everyday Life

It might seem obvious that adding more play to your life can keep things light and fun, but do you prioritize it enough in your life? Are you convinced that you should make more time for play? You should be! Let’s dive in on how you can add more intentional play time into your life.

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Play is more natural for some

Do you ever find it challenging to be playful? A playful mindset indeed comes easier for some than others. Between Coley and Nina, play comes more naturally for Nina, which she attributes to warming up to new situations quicker than Coley. Similarly, Coley feels that she spends a lot of time in her head in social cases where the environment is entirely new to her. And she finds herself feeling most playful when she’s in situations and around people she’s more familiar with.

Personality traits may also have something to do with it. Coley and Nina consider themselves introverts, and generally speaking, they associate extroversion with playfulness. (Read: How to be more playful as an introvert.) 

Defining play for yourself

The first step to prioritizing play is defining what it means to you. Nina considers playing as something that someone does for fun without a purpose

Coley sees play as doing something where you’re partially in the zone but having fun at the same time. 

But defining play is easier said than done! What one person considers playful and fun, others might not say the same. And sharing the activities you do enjoy for fun might feel challenging and awkward at times, especially when explaining or defending your interests.

And another component of play that Coley and Nina believe in is actively engaging in whatever activity you choose rather than using it as a mind-numbing escape. For example, there’s a fine line between having fun playing video games and using them to ignore your current reality. Crossing that line could lead to unhealthy habits.

The researched benefits of play

What does research have to say about playtime? Research suggests that play releases endorphins, increases brain functionality, and sparks creativity. It makes us feel energetic, improves our memory, and offers many other benefits.

The question is — would someone receive these same benefits if they were engaging in an activity to pass the time without intention, even if it’s an activity they enjoy or have fun doing?

Read this next: Add Playtime To Your Work Day

Scheduling a “recess”

One way to incorporate more intentional play into your life: add white space to your calendar and decide what to do with it when the time comes. Dr. Brené Brown talks about the concept of white space — space in your schedule where you have nothing to do — and choosing what you want to do in that space in the moment rather than pre-planning.

This concept can help alleviate feelings of forcing yourself to engage in activities you might not necessarily enjoy doing when the time comes.

Call it a recess, just like kids have at school if you’d like. Schedule recess time and dedicate it specifically to play and choose how you want to play down the road.

How imagination comes into play

For Nina, she’s striving to incorporate more play into her daily activities to find enjoyment in all aspects of how she’s spending her time. This is particularly helpful when she has to do something she doesn’t necessarily want to. She relies on her imagination, just like kids do, to spice up ordinary activities such as filing expense reports.

Another activity where imagination takes over? Reading and visualizing a book within your mind down to every last detail. You can engage your mind in creative ways, no matter what task you’re working on.

Coley prioritizes play to make mundane tasks more fun and set aside time to play regularly for enjoyment. She also plans to use play to be present and focus on the here and now.

Unintentionally inhibiting your desire to play

Have you ever felt drawn to a hobby or play activity, but feel like it’s too much of a commitment to get started?

Coley has felt drawn to painting lately but finds it hard to commit to buying paint and other supplies. Part of this is due, in part, to rotating through hobbies as a kid and asking for items, such as a guitar, that only got used once or twice. 

And as she’s grown older, she’s become more minimal and intentional with her purchases and items she owns, which makes it even more challenging to buy something without knowing if she will stick to it.

Nina recommended finding ways to pilot more expensive play activities, such as borrowing a friend’s paint setup before splurging on one for yourself. And perhaps more importantly — releasing judgments about your previous behaviors that block you from adding more play to your life today.

“I think that’s the whole point of play is just figuring out what feels fun for you in that moment.”

What stumbling blocks do you have when it comes to playing? What have you found helpful in getting you to play more?

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