Happy, joyful playtime for me involves long runs in the woods or hours of biking quiet country roads with friends. Sadly, my world has been feeling a little gloomy lately. My happy endorphins levels are running low; I’m not getting outside to run as far or as long as I like with the chilly temps and biking isn’t quite as much fun in negative wind chills.
While there is light at the end of this long tunnel of winter – the days are getting longer and it is light outside until nearly 6:00 p.m. – the arrival of spring is still a month (or more) away.
What is a girl to do?
Luckily, this girl has learned exactly how much playtime I need to build into my calendar at this time of year. When the weather isn’t cooperating with my first loves, the things which feel playful to me are mid-week wine tastings, a night filled with live Blues music, joining girlfriends for a dinner, or finding an engaging workshop or two to attend.
Last time I checked, play is a critical component of the ever-elusive self-care. It keeps self-care light-hearted instead of feeling like a chore on our to-do list. Play and self-care are necessary ingredients in building our resilience, which allows us to maintain our sense of well-being, even in challenging times.
Turns out, according to Barbara Fredrickson, positivity researcher, resilient people are the ones who are willing to tap into the playful side of life: humor, creativity, exploration, relaxation, and optimistic thinking as a way of thriving in spite of life’s circumstances.
Play, and the attitude of playfulness and joyfulness it creates, builds our resilience muscle in four key ways:
1. Fresh Perspective: Bringing more play into our lives is an easy way to generate humor, creativity, and relaxation – the necessary ingredients for helping us find a more empowering perspective within our current circumstances, especially as we tackle the “Big Stuff”.
2. Let Go – Loosen-up: Engaging in playful activities helps us enjoy the journey; instead of treating ourselves as constant “self-improvement projects” we get to loosen up and laugh with ourselves, instead of taking “it” so seriously.
3. Create Connections: Play allows us to interact with others in a way which strengthens our connections through laughter, jokes, and happy shared experiences, instead of always being the one who requires others to lend a sympathetic, listening ear.
4. Get Curious: Play has a way of encouraging us to get curious, let down our guard, try new things and expand our world view of what is possible…who knew we might like the taste of mussels in garlic sauce; the game of Euchre; downhill skiing; or Stephen King novels?
Get Playful – 3:1
Research by Fredrickson and colleagues shows the tipping point for flourishing, versus languishing, is essentially, 3 to 1 positive emotions and events for every negative emotion, situation, or event.
Frequency is the key to boosting your optimism, humor, creativity.
Since we all define play differently, based on our personalities, create a list of people and activities that feel playful, spark a lightness, and stirring of energy in your soul.
Consider ways to create the tipping point for yourself – what three to one ratio can you create for yourself in a day or week to help you move the needle from languishing to playing and ultimately, to thriving?
Call a friend who is sure to make you laugh.
Hug. Hug lots of people to get your natural, daily dose of oxytocin.
Creativity: Take up knitting or quilting or painting or pottery-making.
Buy yourself a little something special – a new hat, scarf, or pair of earring.
Lose yourself in nature; find hiking trails you’ve never explored before.
Sign-up for cooking classes or join a monthly wine-tasting club.
Gather your friends for a night out … head out for some live music.
Spend the afternoon watching sports – support your favorite team
Schedule a spa day and get a massage or mani-pedi.
Consider dancing or karate or yoga classes as a way to embrace your body’s power.
Head to the make-up counter and try out a new look for the season.
Buy yourself some flowers – I love the pop of color brightening my dining room and my mood.