Psychiatrist Stuart Brown compares play to oxygen. He writes, “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”

Do you remember how to play?

I’m not talking about feeling happy about good things. I’m not talking about feeling good because you made progress on your to-do list. I’m not talking about indulging in relaxation and sleep after you’ve worked your tail off.

I’m talking about real play, the first priority of the day fun, the sort of fun that makes you smile widely and laugh from the fiber of your being.

I mean having the sort of fun that makes you forget about time and your troubles. Fun that infuses your cells with joy and sets off a cascade of soothing and healing emotions.

Dr. Brown calls play a “state of being,” “purposeless, fun and pleasurable.”

When was the last time you played?

Stop and answer this question. It may take you a while.

If the memory you came up with involves drinking or substances, look deeper. When was the last time you had sober fun?

Once you have a solid memory of a true and joyful experience of fun, dive deep into it.

Where were you?

Who were you with?

What were you doing?

Remember all you physically sensed about it (sounds, colors, smells, movements).

Recreate it in your imagination. Mine it for elements that you can make important now.

For example, if the last time you felt abundant playful fun you were in nature and telling a story to a friend, then you’ll want to collect the elements of nature, stories, and friends.

If your last real playtime was reading a great novel in the lobby of a 5-star hotel while wearing stilettos and feeling sexy, then you might collect the elements epic stories, luxury, and embodying your erotic nature.

Maybe you felt exuberant joy handling baby animals, photographing the sunset, singing a love song to the Universe, baking a work of cake art, writing prose you’d never have the guts to share, or taking a road trip with no plan.

This week, I challenge you to think often about fun times and create a list of things that help you to feel joyful and playful.

For those of you who’ve been imprisoned in the work=self-worth dynamic, this will not be easy. You’re the ones who need the powers of play the most.

No memories of fun are too old. Reach back to your childhood, if that’s where there’s fun. Suspend judgment. Let your heart lead. It knows what you love.

By the end of the week, aim to have a 7-10 point play-list. This list will become part of your priorities and calendared events.

Playing isn’t effortless spontaneity for most of us. We’ve had its value diminished and we’ve left it behind.

Life without play is an impoverished subsistence. Open up to the richness available to you. The benefits of play are more than happy feelings.

The joy play brings is vital for emotional and physical health, problem solving, creativity and loving relationships.

What one thing will you do to add some vital play to your day or week? Share with me.

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