Kids have fun. They run, skip, hop, jump and twirl freely. They play tag. They dance, even if they don’t know the right moves — who cares, as long as it feels good?
As we get older, we forget what it’s like to be a kid. Kids let their hair down almost all the time (except when adults tell them not to). They’re carefree. Most of them aren’t stressed out, checking their smart phones every minute. They know how to kick back, relax and have a good time.
Reverting back to childhood occasionally — to the days when you didn’t worry about your hair or your heels and would actually go play in the rain — is not only fun and joyous; it’s also good for your mind, body and soul. Play keeps you in shape and is the ultimate stress reducer. It helps boost your creativity and productivity, and reduces the risk of high blood pressure and hypertension.
Remember the proverb: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Play makes you happy (did you ever notice how often kids smile?). So give yourself permission to take a break, play like a kid and reap the benefits. Here’s how:
1. Go to recess. It’s time to step away from the computer and move. It’s important to stretch and flex and not sit in one position for too long, and wasn’t recess always your favorite part of the day? Take a few laps around your office, apartment or backyard; bounce a ball or just do a few deep knee bends, especially if it’s late afternoon and you’d really rather take a nap.
2. Hula hoop like Michelle Obama. The first lady is on a campaign to get kids moving, so why not adults, too? Make like her and spin a hula hoop around those widening hips. You’ll add some joy to your day and maybe even lose an inch or two over time — hooping is actually a full-body workout capable of burning up to 600 calories an hour.
3. Reminisce. Remember those games you loved from your childhood. It may be time to dust off Twister and bring it out after your next dinner party (just be careful not to send anyone to the emergency room; we’re not as flexible as we once were!). Or try jump rope, hopscotch, Frisbee or even a rousing game of dodge ball.
4. Get your groove on. Dance more. Isn’t that what the music during commercials is for? Get up and cut a rug during every commercial one evening, and soon you’ll be enjoying ads more than ever.
5. Head to the playground. They don’t have to be just for kids. Hop on a swing and see how high you can get pumping your legs up and down. Recapture that feeling of freedom from flying in the air, and get a great leg workout in the process.
6. Play in the snow. So what if you get cold? Wear long under wear. Make snow angels, have a snowball fight and take a few runs on a sled. It will get your heart rate running, and make that après-snow hot chocolate taste oh so good.
7. Make lemonade. Even if life isn’t giving you lemons. It just tastes good, and it’s reminiscent of childhood. Put some fresh mint in it… or add a splash of vodka (hey, you are an adult after all).
8. Move outside. Blow bubbles and chase them. Catch lightening bugs, or skip while holding hands with someone you love.
9. Build a sand castle. Spend the day digging and fortifying until you have something you’re proud of. Then let the waves bring it down — or have fun stomping on it to your heart’s content. A day like that will strip away the stress in your life and help you focus better when you’re back in the office.
10. Be silly. Don’t worry about what others will think. Dress up in a funny costume and take a walk; buy a bunch of balloons and hand them out to all the kids you pass; eat ice cream for dinner one night. Just have fun doing the things you enjoyed once upon a time, or the things you wish you could have done.
What makes you feel like a kid again? Tell us how you get your inner child back, and how it helps you deal with life.
Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul, by Stuart Brown (Avery, 2009)
National Institute for Play, www.nifplay.org