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Weekly Wellness Word: Play

Monthly Theme: Playing & Working

This week’s word is Play

Red rover, red rover, let Johnny come over! Remember that game? When you broke the handclasps of the opposing team, life was peaches and cream. Your team cheered you. You felt on top of the world. When you didn't break through, well, you remember. The game was simple enough. It was speed and power versus grip. It was all a matter of science - force, velocity and cohesion. But did you think of all that when you were playing? Probably not. You gave it all you had, hoped and prayed you had what it takes to find a way through their line.

Work, for most of us, is a serious business. It's the technology, the strategy, the math and science of the issues that dominate our efforts. People's livelihoods are at stake after all; and, depending on the type of work you do, actual lives may also hang in the balance.

Sometimes you may experience work as taxing, exhausting, draining. Work is work after all and work is hard by nature, isn't it? Otherwise, you would take the whole day and play.

You probably don't feel spent after a day of your favorite pastime. Play typically feeds your energy, making you ready for more! Bring it on! Hours upon hours without a thought of how tired you are.

What if there was a way to make work more like play? Would you like that? Imagine yourself waking up in the morning raring to go and dig in, working a full day and still feeling energized at quitting time. Is there a world where this exists, where work can be more like play?

Stop for a moment and consider what makes play so enjoyable for you. What is it about your favorite pastime that makes it natural and effortless, that motivates you to keep going until you've mastered the skill you need to succeed? Now think about whether there are similar factors that might be involved in your work. How might you attack those with that same playful motivation? Are there factors missing in your type of work that are present in your play? Brainstorm about ways you might introduce those factors into your work style to stimulate your playful focus. Write down some ideas that emerge from these reflections and bring them up on your next meeting with your boss or team leader.

Quote of the Week

"Most of our daily life falls under one of these two categories. For us adults, the majority of time is usually spent focused on work with far too little time allowed for play. What passes for play for most adults is more likely to be escape activities--distraction from the responsibilities of work. Many people turn to the entertainment industry instead of engaging in the joyful, creative, spontaneous play that is vital to our wellbeing.

Until schooling begins, children usually spend most of their time playing--a crucial activity for their development. The same activity may be considered to be work or play, depending on whether or not the activity is goal-directed. When we are really playing, we lose touch with all concern about performance or accomplishment and become totally absorbed in our activity. There is no sense of 'should.' Whatever we do is OK. We are in 'the flow.'

Work and play are the stuff of our lives. Almost all your waking hours are spent doing one or the other. Because these activities are so dynamically connected with self-concept, a sense of meaning and purpose, and, in some cases, with your very survival, they are strong determinants of wellness. If there are significant, ongoing problems in either work-life or play, your state of health will usually reflect it. Playing and working are not separate categories of activity. What is play to one may be work to another (compare a sandlot baseball game to a major league game, for instance). Some people don' t consider their jobs as work at all, because they enjoy them so much. And others make a chore out of their recreation. In any case, rather than changing what you do for work or play, it is increased awareness and a change in attitude that is important. You may want to stop to examine the roles working and playing take in your life. If they do not enhance your experience, you may want to make some changes.

Most of us suffer some guilt when taking time for ourselves. We are often embarrassed by our enjoyment of pleasure and need to justify it to others and ourselves. Some place deep inside we harbor old tapes that we persist in playing over and over. They say things such as: 'You're wasting time!' or 'Watch out when things are going well,' or 'This is selfish,' or 'You should be doing something more productive.' They have come to us from our parents, our religious leaders, our workplace, or our teachers, and they are often hard to turn off.

If the fact remains that you need justification to allow yourself to play, then try this one:

Nourishment of yourself is the best preventive medicine currently available!

The list of stress-related diseases grows daily, and many of us are employed in highly stressful jobs. We can hardly be living life to the fullest if we have no energy with which to play, no inclination for simply 'fooling around.'"

- Wellness Workbook by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan

Next Step

How can your play and hobbies make you more effective in your work? Check out this article from Danielle Collins, a professional coach with Primavera.

Further Information

For a deeper dive on the wellness benefits of play at home and work, check out this article from

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