Researcher Stuart Brown, MD, describes play as time spent without purpose. To me this sounds like the definition of an anxiety attack. I feel behind if I'm not using every last moment to be productive, whether that means working, cleaning the house or taking my son to baseball practice. But I can't ignore what the research (mine and others') tells us: Play—doing things just because they're fun and not because they'll help achieve a goal—is vital to human development. Brown believes that play is at the core of creativity and innovation. Play can mean snorkeling, scrapbooking or solving crossword puzzles; it's anything that makes us lose track of time and self-consciousness, creating the clearing where ideas are born.
Which means it's a mistake to restrict play to vacations. In 2014, I hope you'll join me in resolving not to base your self-worth only on your productivity. It's playtime!
Create a play list. Write down three activities you could do for hours on end. Mine are reading, editing photos on my computer and playing Ping-Pong with my family.
Now carve out time on your calendar. Even when I'm busiest, I schedule unstructured time. It's important to protect playtime the way you protect work, church or PTA meetings.
Play well with others. When my husband and kids made their own play lists, we realized that our usual vacations, which involved sightseeing, weren't really anyone's idea of play. So now we go places where we can hike, swim and play cards—things that make us all our most silly, creative and free-spirited selves.
Brené Brown, PhD, is the author of Daring Greatly (Gotham Books).
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