What Happened to Playtime?
My awesome Color Me Rad partner, and former rock bandmate Kevin and I post-run.
When I was a little kid I lived and breathed for recess at school. As soon as the teacher would let us break free, I’d run down the hall as fast as I could to get to the playground before my friends. I’d use my elbows, shoulders, knees or any painfully bony part of my little body to push kids out of the way so I could get to the swing set first. The goal? To claim my spot on the swinging tire so I could glide back and forth in the air with glee for as long as I wanted to. Most of the time I’d find a friend to join me on the tire and we’d both squeal uncontrollably as our friends pushed us higher and higher towards the blue sky. Although I continued to be active and athletic as I grew up, playing on several sports teams, the playtime rules had changed. I allowed the fun element to be taken out of the equation in the name of competition and achievement. I find myself now asking the question: what happened to playtime?
The older we get, the less important and appropriate we think it is to play. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. As we begin to take on more serious responsibilities in our lives, and thus, more serious attitudes towards ourselves, we need to find some balance. After all, all work and no play makes a Grumpy Gus grumpier every day. Your body, mind and soul crave free, unrestricted activity so give into it as often as you can. Here are some online dictionary definitions of playtime: “to exercise or employ oneself in diversion, amusement or recreation,” and, “to do something in sport that is not to be taken seriously.” Doesn’t playtime sound like a nice escape from your everyday, grown-up routine? It doesn’t mean you have to skip to work in your high heels, although that would be impressive and awesome to watch! It could be as simple as hitting up the park more often with your pooch to play catch and roll around on the grass a little. Take your ego and the status quo out of the picture and the possibilities are endless!
Most recently, I participated in the wild and fun Color Me Rad Run at Downsview Park in Toronto. As my friend, Kevin and I ran the 5 KM track, volunteers threw packets of bright and beautiful colour powder all over us. Hundreds, if not thousands of other people from all walks of life, all ages and fitness levels participated. It brought me so much joy to see old and young runners side by side with the same ecstatic smiles across their faces as they embraced this time to play. In retrospect, I should have refrained from smiling the ENTIRE time I ran as I still feel the remnants of that coloured powder in my mouth. I’m sure I swallowed some of this stuff, too–but who doesn’t want colourful insides?!
Research suggests that any type of exercise, including recreational play, increases serotonin in the brain–the so-called “happy chemical.” A study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience by Simon N. Young says, “a comprehensive review of the relation between exercise and mood concluded that antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been clearly demonstrated.” So, if not for your kids, friends, dog or your body, start incorporating playtime into your life for the sake of happiness. Plus, it brings emotional balance to our lives. Play is like a type of therapy that allows us to express our creative selves, while releasing pent-up negativity and emotional pain. How will you play today? Whatever you choose, it’s ready…set…go!