Articles written by me on Self-care and Palliative Medicine
On Self-Care & Palliative Medicine

Play Time

“I know a place where dreams are born and time is never planned. It’s not on any chart, you must find it in your heart–Never Never Land.” From Peter Pan

In our responsible roles as parents, teachers, employers, and employees, we must not lose sight of the joy that can come from play. While playing, we forget both time and worries. Our imaginations allow magic to appear in the mundane. When you’re standing on your head or conversing with your pets, you’re sure to get a different perspective–a healthy, cockeyed view of the world and all its problems. Play provides an enchantment–a disengagement from immediate awareness and surroundings. Such enchantment is too often lost by adults as we get on with the ordinary business in a practical, demanding world full of ‘important’ affairs.

Play has a vital role in the free and sensitive awareness and expression that becomes art. In playtime, we find joy from simplicity, wonder in the mundane; the spiritual element in each of us is allowed to flourish. Additionally, when one is stuck in a cognitive slump, fatigued by work pressures, or just generally taking life too seriously, playtime can help to rejuvenate energy and creativity. There’s tremendous therapy in letting stress go for a while, and play allows this to happen.

How we play depends on many factors, but spontaneity and imagination are key. Make a conscious effort to disengage from the automatic and ongoing requirements of existence. When was your last pillow-fight or water pistol duel? Can you make music with kitchen utensils, cans and chopsticks? Grocery sacks and crumpled newspapers can lead to an impromptu game of indoor basketball. And who we are in make-believe moments possess unlimited magical qualities. In such a respite, we regenerate the joy of life and decrease the effects of stress on our minds and bodies.

“Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.” William Somerset Maugham

Anyone who dismisses play as incidental and nonproductive fails to understand the fundamental role of creative awareness in defining the “objective” world. We are able to imagine what is not present and subjectively interpret our experiences. In this capacity, we conceive our worlds and possess the creativity that can lead to joyous emotional expression–to play. Our imaginations separate us from other living creatures. Why not use yours generously and often?

“Son, when you grow up you will know who I really am. I am just a child like you who has been forced to act responsibly.” Rod Byrnes

Leave time for make-believe, for your imagination to remove you periodically from the real world pressures. The rewards to your mental and physical health (not to mention the fun) are significant. Come play with me.

Stephen L. Hines, M.D.
October 2000

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