We all need playfulness. It adds quality to our life and makes us enjoy the activities we carry out. Try to imagine for a moment a life without play: no wandering around without reason, no laughing at jokes, no creation of art just for the sake of it, no games, no dancing and no books or movies.
Play is a biological need and children play naturally. However, somehow, somewhere down the road adults often lose their sense of play. Because it is ‘inappropriate’, because nobody plays, because they forgot how to or simply because they are embarrassed by carrying out that what they actually would love to do. And I challenge this tendency wholeheartedly. I would even like to go so far as to challenge you today to get to know the type of play that resonates with you and to take a first step in more consciously involving it in your life. Because I truly believe that people would be happier if they gave more space to their need and desire to play.
So what is play? Stuart Brown* says that play is “an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time.” He also describes a number of play personality types. Everybody has aspects of different types, but generally people fit to one archetype most. I would like to name these shortly, because I believe that understanding what type of play resonates with you can help in more actively engaging in such play and fuelling that what you love to do, resulting in a richer life.
Play personality types:
The joker’s play revolves around some kind of nonsense; he makes other people laugh and enjoys practical jokes.
The kinesthete likes to move and ‘needs to move in order to think’.
The explorer provokes imagination by exploration, either physically, mentally or emotionally.
The competitor enjoys competitive games with specific rules and enjoys playing to win.
The director enjoys directing and executing scenes and events and they are born organizers.
The collector loves to hold the most, the best, the most interesting collection of objects or experiences.
The artist/creator finds joy in making things.
The storyteller uses imagination to create imaginative worlds.
Identifying your own type can be a way to achieve greater self-awareness and greater play in life. Perhaps you already have a strong feeling for what drives you, or you already play considerably on a day to day base. But if you would love to play more and are not sure how to go about it, I have a great assignment for you*:
Sit and remember (and visualize if possible) something you did in the past that gave you the sense of unfettered pleasure, of time suspended, of total involvement, of wanting to do this thing again and again. Remember how that made you feel? Remember and feel that emotion and hold on to it, because that is what’s going to save you. Search your memory for activities you loved to do and how it made you feel. Perhaps you enjoyed walking in the forrest, writing little stories, or making clothes for your doll. Your task will be to find activities that allow you to recreate that feeling.
What brought you joy as a child is a great starting point for understanding how to recreate similar emotions now in your present life.
And now I am curious, what is your play type? And what did you love to do as a child? What could you do now that would make you equally excited?
* Source: Brown, S., ‘Play – How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul’, Avery, 2009