We grownups have a lot on our shoulders. Between the responsibilities of work, the complexities of relationships, the jam-packed schedules, the care and feeding of our families, and the worries of the world, adulthood is serious business.
But when the sun comes out and the smell of blooming things starts to waft through the air, a lot of us still feel that old pull of our youth. We want to head outside and play.
You probably know the feeling: You step out of the office for lunch or a meeting or a dentist appointment and the weather is so perfect that suddenly your to-do list seems pointless, and all you want to do is go biking or fishing or maybe round up some pals for a game of soccer.
Maybe you want to be out floating down a river or tending your garden. Maybe all you want to do is lie in a hammock.
The point is, some giddy feeling is grabbing you by the arm and saying, “Let’s go play!” while the adult part of you is trying to wrestle it into submission because it has “more important” things to do.
Being an employer myself, I’m not encouraging you to play hooky from work, but I will tell you that it’s important to listen to what that voice is trying to say and to find some room in your life to indulge it.
Otherwise, it’s going to give up trying. And when that happens, you may feel like your fun child self has run away from home, leaving you and your big adult problems to grow old together.
We’re often telling the real kids in our lives to quit goofing around, but we might be better off taking a lesson from them.
Watch a kid playing and you’ll see someone totally focused on the present moment, someone deeply invested in what he or she is doing — purely for the pleasure of it.
That’s an experience most of us could use a lot more of.
So, how do you make more time for play, and for outdoor fun in particular?
Well, first of all, I think it’s important to recognize that you are probably making time for pseudo-play now. Maybe you watch TV, or you obsessively check your social-media feeds, or you go out for drinks with friends. Maybe you spend time blogging or chatting or browsing online.
The problem with these activities is that they tend to keep you cooped up inside, and they don’t let your body get into the act. Not to mention that many of them also carry their own emotional and physical stress loads.
The kind of play I’m talking about is Play with a capital P. It’s play that an actual child would enjoy. It takes you outside. It lets you move freely. It opens you up to new possibilities, but it doesn’t demand anything from you that you aren’t thrilled to give.
Most important, the prospect of real play should make your heart feel light and happy. This kind of play might involve some physical challenge, but it should in no way feel like work.
What this means is that in addition to swapping out some of your current distractions for playful activities, you may want to start morphing some of your acts of discipline and self-improvement toward play, too.
In other words, if you’re planning a long bike ride, terrific — just leave the training plan and heart-rate monitor at home for a change. Bring your binoculars and a bag lunch instead. (For more tips on taking your fitness activities outside, see “50 Tips for Taking Fitness Outside“.)
If you’re still having trouble finding any open spots in your schedule for play, be prepared to elbow some things out of the way, or find ways to take everyday activities and chores outside. (For some creative crowd-sourced suggestions from the EL team and readers, see “The Green Hour“.)
You might also check the local weather forecast for inspiration. If you know it’s going to rain all day Wednesday and be beautiful the following afternoon, plan accordingly.
If you’ve read this issue of Experience Life, you already have plenty of fun, healthy motivation at your fingertips. Round up some pals — or just round up the playful parts of yourself. Once you’ve got them all present and accounted for, get out there. And enjoy the sweet sound of the screen door slamming behind you.