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Four Ways to Bring Joy Through Play

healthy mindset joy play rise Feb 01, 2024

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “We do not quit playing because we grow old; we grow old because we quit playing.” Age should not be a hindrance for us to keep playing. When we play we actively engage our minds and bodies. We become mindful of what we’re doing. When we play we are energized and our mood shifts to a lighter, more joyful one. We might have forgotten how to play but we can certainly bring back this nature that’s innate to us. This article by clinical psychologist Beth Kurland from Psychology Today teaches us how to bring back playfulness and therefore joy into our lives.

Play for grown-ups can come in many flavors, and we each need to listen to our own inner signals to find what brings out our playful spirit. While board games, adult recreational sports (e.g., tennis, pickleball, softball), puzzles, and online games can be a source of play and fun, there are so many other ways that adults can incorporate moments of play and playfulness into their daily lives.

To discover how to bring more playfulness into your life, try this:

1. Visualize what you loved to do as a kid. Close your eyes and, in your mind, go back in time to a moment when you were playing as a kid, doing something you loved. Put yourself there now, as if you were watching this as a movie in your mind and could re-experience the feelings as if they were happening now. See yourself doing this thing that you loved to do. Did it involve imaginative play and make-believe, creating or inventing something, going on an adventure and exploring something new, moving your body with physical activity (climbing at the playground, splashing in the water)? Was it solitary or with others?

2. Identify what your flavor of play looks like. Write down anything you noticed from the above exercise about what you were doing and how it made you feel. In addition, make a list of all the things you can recall that you used to love to do as a kid in addition to this memory. Now go back and look for themes. What can you learn about yourself and the kinds of things that you found fun and enjoyable? What energized you most? What made you feel most alive? What brought you joy? What was fun for your soul?

3. Make an action plan. Taking what you learned from step 2, come up with as many ways as you can think of to bring that flavor of play into your adult life. If you were a kid who got joy out of creating and inventing things, what might you create for fun now (art projects, recipes, blogs, scrapbooks, greeting cards for loved ones)? How might you bring more creativity into your day? If you loved playing with others as a kid, what might you do that brings you into more connection with others in fun ways (e.g., taking a knitting class, joining a photography club, joining a softball league, organizing a progressive dinner party)? If you got joy out of exploring and learning new things, what mini adventures and learning experiences could you create for yourself (exploring a nearby park or museum, taking a course in something you always wanted to learn about, picking up a new hobby)?

4. Introduce playfulness into the routines of daily life. It’s easy to get stuck in the mundane activities of daily living. We often do the same things in the same ways, over and over. Bringing an element of playfulness and novelty into our day need not take much time; sometimes, it is just a matter of changing things up a tad. Here are a few things I’ve tried out this week: jamming out to my favorite music and dancing around the kitchen while cooking; making a game of doing household chores (something I used to do with my kids) by trying to “beat the clock” and see if I can complete everything before the timer goes off; going for a walk in the rain and splashing in the puddles at my feet.

Playfulness isn’t just for kids. But it does take some intention to integrate more play into our adult lives. Think about some small ways that you might reclaim your playful self, and experiment! The results might just be delightful.


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