Building on last week’s Sunday lesson about living with grace and ease and joy – this Sunday, we’re going to take a deeper dive into how “play – feeling playful – is seriously important for a healthy life.” (And, NOT just for children!)
Did you know that there’s a National Institute for Play? And it is located in Carmel Valley! You can find lots of good information about the importance of play - for ALL of us; as well as suggestions as to discerning your particular “play personality.” (Visit their website at nifplay.org)
Dr. Stuart Brown, the Institutes founder, defines play as “the state of mind that one has when absorbed in an activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of sense of time. Play is anything spontaneously done for its own sake.”
He explains that, the characteristics of play actually have little to do with the behavior itself, and everything to do with the motivation and mental attitude underlying the behavior. Play activities may appear purposeless, but they produce pleasure and joy – and lead us to the next stages of mastery.
Moreover, Brown explains that our capacity to play is the product of evolution…and the development of “divinely superfluous neurons.” Researchers have been able to confirm that when we encounter something playful, neurons in our midbrain light up, starting a cascade of connections that light up neurons across the brain, creating a “play state.” In other words, “play literally lights up the brain. And the thing that's so unique about our species is that we're really designed to play through our whole lifetime.
In fact, according to physical anthropologists and numerous studies, our species is one of the “most neotenous” creatures in existence. (Neoteny is defined as the retention of immature qualities, like flexibility, plasticity – inherent characteristics of playfulness – into adulthood) which results in greater adaptability, which is central to survival.
According to Brown, “it’s time we take playing more seriously” and integrate more fun in our lives. It won’t only help us live longer, but also more joyfully – and with enhanced problem solving capabilities…which we can really use now!
Join us this Sunday. In addition to learning about "divinely superfluous neurons" - we might just get playful!