Photo: Leann Mueller
A few years ago, I noticed in my research that wholehearted people—my term for men and women with the courage to be vulnerable and live their lives "all in"—shared something else, too: They goofed off. They spent time doing things that to me seemed frivolous, like gardening and reading. I couldn't really wrap my head around it—were they slackers? Then one day, while I watched my kids jump on the trampoline in our backyard, it hit me: Wholehearted adults play.
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).
More from Brené Brown
From the January 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!