I still remember stories of my great grandmother waking up every morning to run barefoot in the early morning dew.
When she showed us slideshows of her old photographs, she would sneak in one with a tiny figurine riding a UFO and giggle and giggle when her joke slide came up.
My great grandmother was playful. She was connected to nature and kind to everyone she met. She was filled with a genuine childlike sense of joy.
But not every adult nurtures their playfulness. Many of us lose our playfulness because of socialization and, well, life.
It can be more difficult to be playful when we have to pay bills and keep a family safe and healthy and go to a job every day that we may or may not love.
We are trained early on to think that being an adult means being serious and stable. But learning how to be more playful well into your adult years can have important positive effects on your mental, physical, and social well-being.
Why you should be more playful
There are many reasons you should start figuring out how to be more playful. Some of the most compelling evidence for play is that it speeds up learning, makes us more productive, and increases job satisfaction. It also helps us build relationships and communicate and collaborate better.
Studies have even shown that people who are more playful are also less stressed and possess better coping skills. Playfulness keeps us calmer and keeps us on our A-game.
How to be more playful
But that doesn't tell us how to be more playful. It's not as easy as flipping a switch. Playfulness is a tool, something we can practice and improve throughout our lives. Luckily, it's something we can foster in our own lives, no matter our age.
Here are 3 different ways to become a more playful adult.
One way to be more playful is to start finding the game. In improv parlance, this just means priming yourself for fun patterns. Be on the lookout for amusing and interesting things you can add onto and enjoy.
Your coworker plays a 90's dance classic while eating their lunch? That doesn't have to be annoying. It can be a game. Join in by playing an even better 90's dance classic. Might I suggest Stars on 54?
Your son starts drumming on the table? You've got some choices to make. That could also be super annoying. Or you could join in and find the rhythm.
Just be on the lookout for moments in your day where you can jump in and start a game. It's like Sliding Doors but with games. You can try to find the game or you can be totally annoyed and grown-uppity.
Also, please do yourself a favor and watch this Sliding Door's trailer. It is so wrong, it's right.
You can also learn how to be more playful by gamifying your life. Gamifying is a fairly simple concept. You just make lame things fun by giving them some game-like qualities.
Add a points system, winning and losing, goals, competition, and rewards to even the most mundane tasks, and you'll be well on your way to a more playful life.
Sure, you have to clean your house. But what if you turned it into a game? Race against the clock. Try to beat your old record. Or try to clean the house while dancing and keep track of your style points.
I even turn paying my mortgage into a game. Instead of just sending that cash every month, I used to use a toy monkey to show how much of our house we actually owned. I measured the perimeter of the house and did all the math to have the monkey be a visual representation of our home equity.
Monkey is still next to the front door? We don't really own this house.
Monkey is all the way to the bedroom? Congratulations! We own 30% of this house.
Monkey makes it back to the front door? We own this place outright. Boom goes the dynamite. And the dynamite goes boom. We're rich.
If I can turn my mortgage into a game, I'm pretty sure you can gamify some of your less desirable daily activities, too.
Finally, if you want to boost your playfulness, learn from the experts. Learn from children.
Before society crushes our spirit and turns us into boring grown-ups, we are playful and curious and filled with wonder.
Bring some of this back into your life. Slow down. Take some calming breaths and become genuinely curious and excited about the magic that's happening all around you.
Be like my two-year-old daughter.
See a flower. "Ooooooh. Flower so pretty."
See a jacket? "I like jacket. Jacket sweet."
See a rock? "Wow. So beautiful. Mine!"
You get the idea. Ella is genuinely checking out the world all around her, and it's a good lesson for us all.
Literally stop and smell the roses, and I think you'll start to reignite your inner child with all the playfulness that comes with them.
Final thoughts on how to be more playful
Life doesn't have to be lame. Sure, we have responsibilities. But that doesn't mean we can't have fun. It doesn't mean we can't continue to play and be playful.
Playfulness is vital for our social, emotional, and physical health.
My great grandmother didn't have to read scientific studies to be convinced. She just intrinsically knew that playfulness made her feel great. It made life worth living.
And so she played.
I'm not asking you to be foolhardy or perpetually silly. Playfulness means that you find fun in various situations. You look on the bright side and try to see how something could bring joy to your spirit and the spirit of those around you.
Playfulness means you take time to explore your world and add enjoyment to your social interactions whenever you can.
Playfulness means you make things more fun, not less. It's a matter of perspective.