Are you a playful man?
When was the last time you went outside for play time? It might sound odd to even think about grown-up men playing, but researchers have found that adult play is beneficial to your mental and physical health.
Well, that seems legit. Men can sometimes fall into the monotony of constantly working, constantly sitting, or scrolling in an endless pursuit of ambition. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of survival. You’ve got to work to live and vice versa. Who has time to play?
Work and other commitments leave very little time for it. Even when men do play, it’s more socially acceptable to just plugin to the latest video game and zone out. It’s also easier to just sit and watch a show on Netflix to simply cure your boredom.
However, men need to just get out and play. Playfulness refreshes your creativity, improves your mood, prevents burnout, and helps to keep your body in peak condition. Playing with others improves your relationships and builds confidence. Kids at school get playtime. It’s part of their everyday routine, but for some reason, society has abandoned the notion of playtime for adults.
Why Do Children Play and Adults Don’t?
There’s a reason that you stop playing when you grow up and that’s because you learned how to efficiently move already. You know the ropes of being a human being. In other words, you figured it all out.
Playtime is really a learning experience for children. It teaches children fundamental concepts such as distance, danger, bodily mechanics, leading, following, and other indispensable nuggets of information about what life’s all about.
Adults are supposed to know these things, but scientists are finding that regular playtime for adults continues to be beneficial in other ways. Most of the research is comparative in nature and studies the effects of social play for adult animals of other species. However, there are a few studies that focus solely on human adult play.
Challenges to Understanding Adult Playfulness
One key challenge in understanding the difference between child and adult play is recognizing what adult play is even supposed to look like. For children, it’s relatively easy. A game of chase or tag, a wooden puzzle or stacking blocks, all of these things are well-marketed and easily recognized as games.
Yet, for adults, play can take a number of different forms. Some might find that playing pranks is playful while others do not. The lessons learned from playing a game of tag as a child become different when you play tag as an adult.
Then, there’s adult sexual play which can’t be evaluated in the same category as regular playful activities. Don’t get me wrong, sexual play is awesome. But you can just have some good ol’ fashioned fun and that has tremendous value for adult men, too.
How Playfulness Changed my Life
Habits are powerful and if you cultivate a habit of play then you can feel more satisfied with your life. Playfulness can become a part of you and improve your mood. I’ve found this to be true in my own life.
Just before I turned 30, I began taking circus tumbling classes at my local gym. Before that, I was struggling with a failed career in the film industry and the loss of wealth that came with it. I was an emotional wreck who chose to cope by self-isolating and taking copious amounts of drugs just to get out of bed.
A friend of mine suggested that I join him for class at the local gym where you could try out circus tumbling and acrobatics. It sounded crazy, but I was at the end of my rope. It was a way for me deal with depression and I was willing to try something new.
The class was fun. We would sometimes just roll around on the floor or bounce on trampolines. It was silly and challenging all at the same time. It turned out that I was pretty good at tumbling and when I managed to successfully complete physical skills it gave me a tremendous boost to my confidence. In a few months I was ready to try other things like parkour and martial arts.
Over a period of time, I noticed improvements to my physical health and my overall mood. I had more energy, more confidence, and felt more content with life. As a bonus, my love life got way better, too.
Was it simply a matter of exercising more regularly or was it something about the way I expressed myself through play? Well, researchers have recently found evidence to support the idea that a sense of playfulness can be cultivated.
Playfulness is a Learned Trait
Researchers at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg recently conducted experiments in playfulness. They collaborated with partners from the University of Zurich in Switzerland and Pennsylvania State University.
The research team gathered 533 participants and asked them to complete daily exercises over a one-week period. The experiment went on for 12 weeks and the exercises were specifically designed to boost their sense of playfulness.
The study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and their findings were published in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being journal in August 2020. “Our assumption was that the exercises would lead people to consciously focus their attention on playfulness and use it more often. This could result in positive emotions, which in turn would affect the person’s well-being,” says Brauer, a researcher at MLU.
The research experiment was a huge success and participants used the exercises to acquire new playful traits. “Particularly playful people have a hard time dealing with boredom. They manage to turn almost any everyday situation into an entertaining or personally engaging experience,” explains Professor René Proyer, a psychologist at MLU.
It’s unclear exactly what the exercises were, but we’ve come up with some of our own ways to increase your sense of playfulness. You can try these on your own or with friends and family. The important thing is to just have fun with it.
How to Boost Your Playfulness
- Play Frisbee
- Play with Lego blocks
- Take a parkour or free-running class
- Play with animals or pets
- Play with children
- Sing and/or dance
- Do a physical challenge
- Visit a theme park
Men who are playful have more emotional and mental flexibility. They can adopt new perspectives, manages stress levels, improve the mood of others around them and make ordinary tasks much more interesting.
A sense of playfulness could be a challenge for some men, especially because societal norms compel us to be serious and competitive all the time. Life is hard enough as it is. So, why not dull the edge a bit by smiling, laughing, and enjoying your experiences.
A sense of playfulness can be therapeutic. It certainly was for me. When you have a good sense of humor and genuinely carry an air of fun-loving confidence, then lots of things fall into place for you. Most notably, you’ll feel less stressed and you’ll become a magnet for other people because guess what – other people want those traits, too.
So, what are you waiting for? Do something silly already.