Were you play deprived as a child? You may not think so, but one way to tell if you missed out on some valuable, run around in circles with other kids for no apparent reason than it’s fun time, is to look at your social relationships now. Are they fulfilling or do you have issues with people at work or family members which you’re not sure how to resolve? If your social relationships aren’t what you would like them to be it’s possible that the solution is in learning to play again. Last week we talked about how taking breaks and playing as an adult reduces your stress and improves your over all well being. But did you know that play, whether you are a child or an adult, will help you develop the social skills to succeed in the world?
The richness of one’s social life is often determined by if and how well they play with others. Relationships can not be developed or maintained without social skills. If an adult has spent much time playing with others during their childhood, they are more likely to experience success in navigating social situations; both personally and professionally. Social skills come through human interaction, and many of these skills can only be developed through play. Think back to your childhood. Did you engage in play which taught you about boundaries, patience, conversation skills, how to respond to social cues, and problem solving? These are all essential to successful living. These skills are first learned on playgrounds, in sand boxes and tree houses, and are then taken into adult life to be matured.
Let’s face it, the old saying “It’s not what you know but who you know” is truer than most of us want to believe. If as a child you were one of the kids who didn’t quite fit in or who was painfully shy, your ability to create and maintain thriving relationships which take you to the next level of success may very well be hampered to this day! During play, circumstances arise that challenge and force people to work through them if they wish to continue to be “play partners”. Through play bonds are created. Many relationships, both romantic and platonic, fail because enough time isn’t taken early in the relationship to “play”. Without that time of play early in the relationship there is a failure to establish a true and solid bond.
Though you may have missed out on necessary play time in your childhood it is not too late to learn these valuable play skills. At this stage, at least at first, you may have to make the effort to be more intentional in your efforts to play. So if you have decided to incorporate play into your life, and want to reap the benefits of play , to not only reduce stress but to learn desired social skills, you must now take the initiative, step outside of your comfort zone, and intentionally put yourself in social situations where you can play and foster the social skills and experiences you desire.
No you don’t have to buy a jungle gym… or even the adult woman’s equivalent … a Pilates machine. Play can start as simply as expressing your sense of humor to others. Take a moment to joke with a co-worker. Experiment with flirting with your partner … or even that cute guy the grocery store. Take some time to do something that you enjoy. And the sillier it is the better. Then expand on that by doing things that you enjoy which place you in the company of people with whom you already have something in common. These people could possibly develop into your new “play partners”. Open a new way of life for yourself today by trying out different ways to engage others through play. Let fun and play open new relationships and possibilities for you to enjoy your life, then see the success unfold.