“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face” — Victor Hugo
With retirement comes the opportunity to swat a worried face and to swap those long ‘to do’ lists for serious fun. This is the time to re-discover play and to spend time every day just having fun — and replacing frowns with laughter. As adults, we often we forget that playfulness is instinctive and that it’s not just for the kids.
If retirement is approached with the same dedication and determination that characterized the ‘work’ years, it will be easy to get consumed with routines. Adopting an attitude of play will change your perspective adding new dimensions to your life.
Spending time in a happy place and in a playful mood is likely to bring unusual benefits — particularly for the postworksavvy lifestyle. The National Institute for Play has a large online database of books, articles and research reports from diverse fields of study including developmental psychology, evolutionary biology and neuroscience.
The research cites benefits of play for health, mood, thinking and relationships.
Health benefits come from reduced stress, anxiety and worry. When something playful absorbs you — aches, pains and other troubles quickly disappear. Spontaneous fun promotes positive hormones that create a feeling of well-being. If the activity involves movement, your body benefits. If others take part you achieve a greater sense of connection and community.
Play changes your mood. Research tells us that play is as important as love for improving mood and creating positive emotions. Whether it is the shared laughter that comes from a silly moment with your spouse or rough housing with a group of 8 year olds or the challenge of a highly competitive bridge game — having fun changes you. Goofing around helps to generate optimism and calmness — at the same time.
Play promotes capacity for thinking, creating and learning. Gifted educators know that having fun in a class keeps a student engaged and interested. This holds true for both young children and adult learners. Developmental psychologists tell us that children learn best through their play. Adults are more capable of absorbing and understanding complex information when the learning environment is free from stress. A relaxed and enjoyable environment enhances problem solving, judgement, and decision-making. Perhaps this is why many corporations support a playful organizational culture as a method of creating innovation and improved productivity.
Play is a powerful way of enhancing relationships. Anyone lucky enough to interact regularly with children experiences the contagious effect of their laughter. How often do you laugh heartily with your spouse or partner? Play and laughter refreshes relationships keeping them dynamic and joyful. The happy memories that come from pleasurable experiences, sharing humour, private jokes, or funny movies provide both energy and sustenance to keep relationships energized and fulfilled.
What counts as play?
Just about anything that brings you a feeling of bliss and joyfulness counts as play. It might be games or books or hobbies or music or sports. It might be spending time outdoors enjoying nature. It might be hanging out with a good friend. It might be swapping your gym workout for a dance class. It might be learning new things with a loved one. It might be taking a walk with your dog or going to a park with grand children. It might be a class of laughter yoga! Experiment and decide what works in your life.
Whatever you do to let loose, to laugh heartily, to enjoy a special moment counts as play. The point of playing is to get fully absorbed so that you feel free, happy and fully alive.
And retirement is the ideal time to play. If your career years did not leave much time for fun or if you missed those wonderful times of play during childhood, retirement gives you another opportunity — a second chance — to learn to play and to have fun. If not now — when?
This blog post was inspired by ‘Take time to play, It’ll make you feel younger’ an article by The You Docs — Dr. Mike Roizen and Dr. Mehut Oz. If you like my blog, please consider subscribing, leaving your comments or emailing the post to a friend.