We all know how to play as children, but as grown-ups? Not so much.
You may think playing is just for kids, but research shows that adults who play are more confident, motivated and relaxed.
Between holding down a job and keeping up with our ever-expanding list of responsibilities, how can we make time to just let loose and play?
To find out, we spoke with three of the most fun bloggers we know – Eric Alper, Mara Rubinoff Shapiro and Dee Brun Gow – about how to be a grown-up and still keep the fun alive.
All Good Blog: We want to talk about grown-up play. Is there such a thing?
Dee Brun: YES. My friend just sent us e-vites for his 40th birthday, it is a scavenger hunt through Toronto. This will be fun.
Eric Alper: The first time Hannah went to sleepover camp last year, Candace and I went out every single night – dinner, walked around downtown. It was like falling in love all over again.
Mara Rubinoff Shapiro: Me too, Eric. The first year all three of them were away, we didn’t go grocery shopping once. Out every night.
DB: *Dee is now online searching sleep away camps*
MRS: So many grownups are so caught up in being a grownup that they forget how to just let go and have a good time. What are you giving up by being silly? Let loose. Dance. Run around. Have a few or several mojitos. It’s what keeps you young. Look at me. I don’t look a day over 44.
AGB: I think the problem that some grown-ups have with play is giving themselves permission to STOP DOING STUFF and just BE. What do you think?
MRS: Totally, or their image of what an adult looks like, or their inhibitions take over. They’re worried they will lose credibility or their card in the adult club. Or what they’ll look like. That’s one of the beautiful things about children. They don’t give a crap how they look. They just have a good time.
EA: There’s still a voice in the back of my head saying ‘You’re not 12. People are looking at you,’ knowing full well nobody cares a whit about me, or looking or watching me.
MRS: Eric, I have that voice too. Except it’s saying, ‘YAY look! Everybody is looking at you! Do it more!’
DB: We forget about ‘play’ – It’s a ‘waste of time,’ it ‘won’t make me money,’ ‘I HAVE to fold the laundry.’ We make a MILLION excuses every day to NOT do the things we really want to… Then one day, there are just no more days left…then what?
EA: Dee, it’s like “You want some motivation to have some fun? You could die tomorrow. THERE’S your motivation.”
DB: TESTIFY my friend!! *sung in my best Aretha Franklin voice*
AGB: So do you guys have any tips to help all the stressed-out adults who will read this play more?
MRS: I would say to just let go. Find something you like to do, and then make the time to do it. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s idea of a good time, just something you enjoy, that makes you smile, that makes you feel good about yourself and life.
DB: Just try and think back to what FUN felt like, like REAL fun that made your nose run and scabbed your knees.
EA: I don’t even FEEL like an adult. I don’t look like one, in height. I still wear the same shirts I did when I was 17 and 24, but a newer version. I wear ripped jeans to work. The only time I’ve ever felt like an adult is when I get pulled over by the police for an illegal turn or something.
AGB: But Eric Alper, you’re a self-professed reformed workaholic. How did you learn to kick back and watch the clouds roll by?
EA: I had to learn. I had to force myself. I think we’re all caught up with, “What does this all mean? WHAT’S MY ROI [return on investment]!” Seriously, doing something for nothing’s sake except hanging out, spending time, laughing, is lost on a lot of people these days. And it’s going to get worse. The more social media is around, the more people are using it, and not being ‘in the moment.’
DB: I agree, adults need to learn how to shut it all off… That is the hardest part.
EA: We can’t even, in some cities, enjoy a dinner out, or be WITH other people, without checking our phones every five minutes to wonder who else is having a better or worse time than we are.
AGB: How about being playful with your significant other? Studies show that play helps couples rekindle their relationships and encourages emotional intimacy.
DB: I flirt with my husband 24/7. I am the best flirter on the planet hands down. It makes him smile, turn red and laugh. It’s a great way to start the ‘play.’
MRS: Actually, I’m going away in July with three other couples to Cuba. We are planning an epically silly fun time. My husband is actually one of those people who has a hard time letting go and having a good time and being silly. He thinks I’m moderately to extremely insane, actually. However, we do like to keep the *fun* alive.
AGB: Mara, do you think he married you in part so you could help him cut loose and have more fun?
MRS: I think we married each other because we were fulfilling a gap. For example, without him, I’d probably be living in a cardboard box under a bridge. And without me, his life would be devastatingly boring.
DB: Mara, are we married to the same man? My husband and I are POLAR opposites. I have dragged the FUN out of him over the years, and at times it was and still is painful.
AGB: OK, Dee and Mara. How do you drag fun out of people? I think that would be useful to know.
MRS: First of all, you should just do what you think is fun, and not worry about whether anyone else is. Fun is contagious. Just do your thing. The other thing is that some people have different ideas of ‘fun’. My husband says he’s having fun on the inside, even though he’s just sitting there looking like a lump. He’s an introvert. So, his fun and how he expresses it is very different.
DB: Lead by example, fun is contagious. Mary Poppins said it best: Find the fun and SNAP the job becomes a game. If you smile the whole world smiles with you, and 10 other cheesy lines but they are all true. Don’t give them any options. Once you send the vibe out it is really hard to say no…
ABG: Do you think people learn stuff about themselves through play?
DB: OMG YES… and another yes.
MRS: For sure. They learn what their interests are, how they think, what their dreams and skills are. Have a look at Susan Cain’s TED talk on Introverts. I think it would be valuable for this series. She talks about being an introvert as a child and being forced to ‘play’ like the other kids when she just wanted to read… It really helped me understand my family, as I’m an extrovert surrounded by introverts. Apparently they are ALL having fun on the inside.
EA: Getting stuck in one role, say that of “mom” or “dad” can reduce our sense of spontaneity and aliveness. Everyone is bigger than those roles, so playing as adults is a must. It’s amazing that kids are constantly slipping in and out of roles, but adults have a hard time doing this.
MRS: I would love to be dad Eric. That would get me out of a whole lot of chores. And, I would conveniently be able to forget how to load the dishwasher or fold socks.
EA: Just put the socks in the dishwasher. And that’s why I don’t do the laundry.
AGB: Thanks so much guys, this has been a great talk! Anyone have any points to add that we have missed?
EA: I just want to say that I love cookies, and have no problem with my kid jumping in mud puddles.
MRS: My kids are clamouring for dinner. So I will just ignore them.
AGB: LOL! To sum up, sleepaway camps are a great way to boost grown-up fun, flirting works too, introverts have fun on the inside and we all need to turn off social media once in a while.
How do you have grown-up fun? Do you find it hard to just let loose?