Why Play Works for Grownups

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the real cost of not having enough playfulness, especially when it comes to transforming something big in our lives that we care a lot about.

The theme rolled in recently with a new client, Hayley. She was telling me how badly she felt about putting off making changes she knew she wanted to bring about in her life. She had so much shame and regret. She noticed that even though she was now taking powerful action and making some great changes, she said she still wasn’t “firing on all burners”. 

And as she spoke, I felt the deeply universal nature of this theme overall.

When we’re living in the constant, sometimes subtle undercurrent of regret, or of private shame about what we aren’t doing that we know we should, we are kinking the hose, literally restricting the flow of the full range of what’s possible for us in life.

For Hayley, we found that one of the key missing pieces was a sense of play, of curiosity, of genuine interest. So, while in the past she could “get” herself to eat better for awhile, and exercise more often, it was a continual slog for her, and…you know what’s coming next…she always eventually quit.

If you’ve ever found yourself making something that’s important to you VERY SERIOUS, you know what I’m talking about. 

But “important to me” does not have to mean heavy, or hard. It can be light and sacredly important at the same time. This is so simple it’s easy to miss. 

I work with women all the time who so earnestly want to create a better relationship with their bodies and how they eat, that it becomes a GIANT PROJECT. When we first connect, they can tell me in great detail what they’re doing “wrong” and what’s not working.

But what’s harder for them by far? Connecting with what’s working, what’s fun, what’s interesting to them about any and all of this. Finding ways to connect with their own playful knowing, and owning this, and rocking this. Talking about fun!

Yet most of the time it doesn’t occur to us to put the crucial element of fun into a BIG SERIOUS PROJECT, and there’s a good reason why.

Remember when you first learned to ride your bike without training wheels, or put on a pair of skates? Or painted a picture or whistled? And how, leading up to the moment you could actually do it, a sense of play and of adventure?

Along with KNOWING you’d fail some while you learned, maybe fall off, maybe get a little paint on your clothes, and maybe get a little hurt?

The big difference is that then, we never thought about it as “failing” or “screwing up”. It was our Big Adventure. It was really livin’! The part about not getting it perfect the first time? With most of us it got zero mental airtime. We were simply explorers.

As children, most of us have a sense of play and fun while we were learning stuff like this. It’s not until we’re adult women that we feel the need and the pressure to “take this seriously”, whatever “it” is.

The pervasive drive to get it “right” the first time leaves no room for finding out who we actually are in this process. There is no room for exploration or error.

This is why it can feel like so much work that we need to keep talking ourselves into doing when the going gets rough, which it will sometimes.

And with eating, with food, with inhabiting our bodies in a respectful and loving way, we can miss the beautiful opportunity to explore these things with a sense of play.

There’s a whole range you can consider exploring, from the subtly different to the downright LOL ridiculous. There is no downside, and you’ll learn something about yourself that you don’t know from where you sit in the SERIOUS chair!

You’ll be disarming tension and stress.

You’ll be living in your body more (you know, the one that knows exactly what and when you should be eating?)

You’ll start to notice fresh creative ways to eat, dress, shop, cook and move your body. A sense of just feeling generally juicy will begin to show up, now that your wiser self has gotten the message that it’s okay to play!

Maybe you literally play with your food, and celery becomes a microphone and you belt out a love song to the dog.

Maybe you go to the grocery store well rested, not hungry, and interested in what other vegetables exist that you’ve hardly noticed. You playfully ask yourself what you want, what you might like to try, and what you’re curious about.

Maybe you sing “I’m Too Sexy” to the empty ice cream container in the trash (I did this. Yes.), instead of beating yourself up over eating it in the first place.

Maybe you laugh more, and this opens you up in ways Being Serious never could.

What comes to you as you play around, opening up to  that which honors your creativity, sense of fun and curiosity, and that maybe shakes things up a bit? 


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