Play each day

August 10, 2009

A half a dozen years ago, I found myself in a rough patch. Looking at the four seasons of tough times, I had a good four to six months of what in my last post I would have called “winter.” I wasn’t happy with what life had dished out in the early months of 2003, nothing was earth shattering, but nonetheless very disheartening. Discouraged and unsure of the future, I was weathering tough times’ dark, messy middle when luckily, I received some good advice. “Even if you don’t want to, do something that you enjoy each day,” my husband told me.

Children Playing 1941

He had reminded me to play; to do something that might not have any obvious purpose other than to make me smile. Trusting him, I took his advice and made sure I did something that had before brought me happiness. I ran around the neighborhood, spent time with friends and danced around my kitchen. I played games with my children and traveled with them. Play time helped me to recover my bearings and after studying tough times for the next half a decade, I understand why.

As expert Dr. Stuart Brown explains, play keeps us healthy and thriving. “By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.”  The following video clip from a three part PBS special describes the importance of play:

Deidre Combs

Deidre Combs is the author of three books on cross-cultural approaches to resolving conflict and overcoming challenges:  The Way of ConflictWorst Enemy, Best Teacher  and Thriving Through Tough Times. The books integrate perennial wisdom from the world’s lasting cultural traditions with systems theory and brain research.

Dr. Combs is a management consultant, executive coach, mediator and core instructor in Montana State University’s Leadership Fellows Certificate Program and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Global Competence Certificate Program. Since 2007, she has also taught intensive leadership training to State Department-selected students, teachers and professional leaders from throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and Pakistan’s FATA region.

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