Friday, January 8, 2016

Embrace Fun and Play in Your Lives

October 23, 2013

I have to finish this newsletter fast -- too many things are going on and I am feeling stressed. I don't like to stress myself out, so I set my goal to do something fun when I'm done.

Whether you like it or not, kids like to play. Indeed play brings pleasure. When counseling kids at public school, I often asked about their favorite period at school. Many kids (especially boys) answered "recess" - it is really sad to see kids having less and less time for unstructured play.

Have you seen kids staring at their homework for hours but going nowhere? Instead of scolding, lecturing, threatening, yelling, and nagging, try to look beyond the surface symptoms and understand what's happening inside them. 
Is there any truth to it when they complain about school, homework and activities? 

Often times, playing, laughing, and having fun put people at ease. Children of all ages (including youths and adults) can best focus their energy on learning, growing and performing when they feel emotionally secured. The reason so many people love working in the Silicon Valley is that it is actually fun and stimulating to work on high-tech stuff. When things are going well, you could "work" forever because you feel the excitement and pleasure. However, if the deadline is coming and your boss is breathing down your neck, you probably could not concentrate. If you have a demanding boss or co-workers, the pain might even cause you to avoid going to work by calling in sick. Similarly, our kids might lose interest in school if there's no fun.

Whether you need to work harder or play more, I just want to help put things into perspective. Do you remember the last time you were really having fun? Have your kids been complaining about school, homework and activities?

I know you are busy. Like most parents, there are so many things to do - projects and meetings at work or church, driving kids around, helping them with their homework, chores at home, etc. If it feels like you have less leisure time and fewer unstructured "play" hours in your life, you're not alone. Consider these statistics:
  • The average married couple works 26 percent longer each year than similar working couples did thirty years ago.
  • Leisure time among children ages 12 and under has declined from 40 percent of a child's day in 1981 to 25 percent of a child's day in 1997, and about one in four American adults reports no leisure-time physical activity.
  • A landmark Surgeon General's Report identified lack of physical activity, including during leisure, as a serious health threat in the U.S.
The late A. Bartlett Giamatti, former president of Yale University and one-time commissioner of Major League Baseball said, "You can learn more about a society by observing the way they play as opposed to how they work."

Our high tech life with its accelerated pace has fostered a culture that seems to be always working, always rushed, always connected. With cell phones interrupting the theater, laptop computers at the beach, internet connections at every other cafĂ©, and home offices that beckon us all hours of the night and day, it's hard to separate "play" from "work." Yet to maintain balance in our lives, and for our ultimate well-being, play is important. Lenore Terr, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of Beyond Love and Work: Why Adults Need to Play, argues that play is crucial at every stage of life. In play, we discover pleasure, cultivate feelings of accomplishment, and acquire a sense of belonging. When we play, we learn and mature and find an outlet for stress. "Play is a lost key," Terr writes. "It unlocks the door to ourselves."

When we are completely involved in play, our cares and worries disappear. Sailing, playing a game of tennis, or being thoroughly engrossed in a good novel, we feel pleasurably alive and light-hearted. There is nothing like play that allows us to be present in the moment.

If you feel like you don't have enough play time in your life (and who doesn't), try these suggestions:

Turn-off. Turn off the television, computer, beeper and cell phone for at least two hours a day.

Let your mind wander. Recall what you used to enjoy doing or what you always wanted to do before we became so technology-oriented.

Include others. Invite someone over to play and hang out, just like you used to when you were a kid. Nothing planned, nothing structured. Let your play evolve naturally.

Think physical. Go for a walk, ride your bike, rent some skates, play basketball ... go for a swim or a run.

Pretend. Just for a moment, pretend you don't have any cares or worries. Pretend you have all the time in the world to laugh and play and enjoy. Pretend there is no moment other than this. Better yet, you don't have to pretend at all. Just take your anxiety to Him.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

Life is too short. Think about what and who are really important to you when all is said and done! Any time you have the choice of whether to work "just one more hour" or give yourself over to play, consider what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."

I don't know about you, but all work and no play got me sick and into trouble. I made a decision after asking myself some tough questions. I don't have to quit writing newsletters. I just have to keep this short so that I still have time for praise exercises today. I need it! 

Do your kids like to play? How about you? What play or fun activities could you include in your life this week, even today?
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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