Snow, autumn leaves, shining sun, refreshing breezes, and sparkling water call us to play. Play is a powerful human instinct. Have you ever thought about the opposite of play?  Would you guess work?  According to the psychiatrist of play, Dr. Stuart Brown, the opposite of play is depression.

Here is how Dr. Brown defines play:

  1. apparently purposeless,
  2. provides enjoyment,
  3. suspends self-consciousness,
  4. suspends the sense of time

For me, play is that childlike sense of discovery, release from the predictable, and immersion of self into enjoyment. Psychologists are discovering unexpected benefits of play. Manhattan psychologist Penny Donnefeld found that play reduces stress hormones in the bloodstream, may keep our arteries clear, and keep us alive longer. Yet, what do we hear from others? Work before play; play is for children. Twenty minutes of sustained belly laughter releases more endorphins than only one activity, and that is X-rated.

The economic downturn has forced many of us to work harder with fewer employees to share that work. We go home to more work, repeating this process daily. Under chronic stress the drive to play will disappear, and eventually, illness ensues.

A group of my friends from Nashville (distinguished organizational leaders) take a motorcycle road trip each year. When pressed for why, they say to spend quality time, explore, recharge, and make lasting memories, while feeling like a kid playing on a big toy!

Judging or Perceiving are the two lifestyle attitudes of psychological type theory. Judging (55% of the U.S.), is not necessarily judgmental; it is about getting things designated, listed, scheduled, and done. These employees appear serious and sober. They even walk with a sense of authority, even if only going to the restroom!

Perceivers (45% of the U.S.) find joy in watching and waiting before committing. They do their best work when pressure prompted. They are working on the project in their heads where their J colleagues cannot see it happening. P’s appear laid back and carefree, but they care deeply about their work and are driven by perfection rather than checking it off their list. At the last minute, the Perceiver will produce a rough draft that is the final draft. It is that good because the P has been writing it inside the brain for several days or weeks.

Flexible, playful, adaptable, the P’s bring fun to the workplace. The J’s spend lots of energy trying to “fix” the P’s, while the P’s, knowing they are being “fixed”, spend their energy “messing with” the J’s. P’s really detest the abundance of “shoulds and oughts” that most J’s love to use. P’s across the country tell me they don’t want to work for such “shouldy” people!

It is no accident that in Silicon Valley one may bring a dog to work and ping pong tables are used during breaks. And what about the nap rooms that some companies offer? Providing bicycles and trails might work for some locations.

Shared play bonds family members. In my family, the grandchildren clamored to get a spot by their beloved Pepa in the big white swing on the back porch. Their little legs didn’t reach the ground, so he pushed them and snuggled them while they giggled with delight. He pointed out the sights, smells and sounds of nature. After his death, only one possession was requested, the big white swing!

Dr. Brown says we need to take play to the bedroom. He says that the best sex is playful sex. When partners connect by doing something playful, they are freeing themselves from predictable behaviors and inviting some excitement into the relationship. He encourages couples to put suggestions of something playful to do together in a “love jar”.  They select suggestions for activities when the time is right. Yes, I know, he DOES live in California! And he keeps an office in a TREEHOUSE!

The genius inventor, Leonardo De Vinci, stated that the mind must be clear to generate new ideas. “Great ideas”, he said, “occur during periods of total relaxation, not during periods of deliberate effort.”

According to Leo, the more we play, the smarter we get!

Anne Murray, all rights reserved

To reprint, include contact information, , Bowling Green, KY, phone (270) 781-3677