I don’t know how to play very well. I know I’m not alone. When my own children were little, I felt awkward and self-conscious rolling around in the grass or finger painting. I felt anxious when playing too long. I always had one more thing to get done and even when I didn’t, simply having fun seemed like a waste of valuable time.

Recently I spoke with a gentleman who was stressed out and on the verge of depression. In looking at some things he could change in the moment, I encouraged him to get extra sleep and play some golf over the weekend. He said, “How can I do that without feeling guilty?” Like me, this man regularly bowed to the relenting tyrant called productivity. But lately he’s noticed that his daily accomplishments are compromised due to exhaustion.

Dr. Stuart Brown, a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and clinical researcher in the area of play writes about the importance of taking time for play even as adults. He says, “Play is anything but trivial. It is a basic biological drive as integral to our health and functioning as sleep or nutrition.” He claims, “Play shapes the brain, play opens the imagination and play invigorates the soul”

Play is good for us! If that’s true, then why don’t we allow ourselves more play time? For me and lots of others it’s busyness. Being a first born, overachiever, I am good at working but terrible at playing. There is always one more thing (or 50 more things) that I need to finish before I can let myself relax. Other people tell me that they feel guilty playing. They’ve been told play is for children; it’s immature and irresponsible. Play has no value because it’s not productive. Sometimes we just feel silly playing. We aren’t athletic or competitive and we feel stupid when we don’t know how to do something well.

But after reading Dr. Brown’s book, and listening to the Holy Spirit, I am convinced of the importance of more play in my life. Yes, there are aspects of play that can be destructive (like gambling, repetitive internet games or high risk behavior), but overall, constructive play is necessary to our well-being.

So I’m learning to play more and I’ve discovered that I feel better, freer, and I find I am more productive and creative. Therefore, I want to challenge you to think about the importance of play. How can you incorporate more good play into your everyday life? For me, playing with my dog, dancing, reading, flower gardening, hiking, and riding my scooter with my husband helps me relax and enjoy God’s creation which are huge boosts to my body, spirit and soul.

Here are some ways Dr. Brown recommends we learn to play more:

Physical activity
Dance, skip, hike, bike ride, roller blade. Don’t worry if you don’t know how or feel self conscious. Part of the value of play is learning how and mastering a new skill. This Spring I passed my motorcycle safety class and received my motorcycle license. I amazed myself and my husband. I was the oldest person in the class.

Social interaction
Book club, cooking class, craft class, bird watching adventure. Skip the internet chat rooms. They create an artificial relationship and eat up lots of time.

White water rafting, safari, camping, vacation – these things challenge us and open our minds and hearts to new experiences as well as recharge our batteries.

Drawing, painting, weaving, flower pressing. We are designed to desire beauty and created by God to co-create. Learn to make something new. Don’t hold yourself back because you fear the difficult. Part of the value of play is giving yourself a challenge with new things.

So friends, I’m going out to play more. Now I hope you can give yourself more permission to go and have some fun too before the summer is over!

P.S. The book I referenced is called, by Stuart Brown, M.D. Gary Thomas also has a book out on the same topic called  .