Playfulness and Creativity
Life can feel pretty serious right now. We’re often faced with instability, both in our lives and in the world around us, and it’s hard to avoid the bad news that shouts for our attention every time we check the news or go on social media.
At the Museum of Happiness we firmly believe in the power of self-care, so there are times when the best gift you can give yourself is a news or social media ban (or to create a new habit where you only check them once a day!).
Self-care is associated with getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking time out to relax. But what about play? Do you make time to be creative, to have fun, and to play?
We tend to associate the word play with being a kid. And that’s totally understandable, as children are the ones who play the most - and it’s probably when you played the most, too!
But the reason why children play so much is because it’s a great way to learn, grow, develop, experiment and be creative. It’s how we explore our world, and ourselves, in a way that’s open to new possibilities, ideas and solutions.
It’s no coincidence that we still want to access these abilities now we’ve grown up. Especially if we want to thrive rather than just survive.
And let’s not forget that we all have an inner child inside us. Being attentive to its needs, be they for safety or for play and self-expression, is a powerful way to give ourselves the love and care we need.
So how does being playful helps us? Amongst many other things it
Releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins, which help reduce stress
Strengthens our relationships with others, by increasing empathy, trust and intimacy
Improves our social skills, helping us to feel safe and to trust more
Increases our energy and helps prevent burn-out
Research shows that doing something creative every day makes us happier, too. This could be writing, cooking, knitting, doodling, dancing, singing; anything that can be defined as “coming up with novel or original ideas; expressing oneself in an original and useful way; or spending time doing artistic activities”.
The study participants who engaged in creative pursuits felt “significantly more energetic, enthusiastic and excited the next day”. Who wouldn’t want to feel more like that?
Play helps us to see old problems in a new way and to become more innovative, too, as we’re allowing the space for a new perspective to arise - so it’s also something to bring into your place of work!
One of the biggest side effects of being playful and creative is that it helps us move into a “growth mindset” which means we see obstacles as challenges to overcome, rather than dead ends. This helps us to be more resilient to stress, as we know we always have a choice about how to respond.
Seeing obstacles as things you can overcome helps us to feel more empowered. Yay for play!
Action for April: Give yourself permission!
Being playful is as much a state of mind as an action. For many of us, the biggest barrier to being playful or creative is .. us! We think that we’re not creative or artistic, or that we need to take everything - including ourselves - seriously.
We can also feel anxious about the opinions of others. If we start a playful conversation with someone at the bus stop, will they reject us? If so, how will we handle the sense of shame we may feel?
And yet being playful can help us diminish our sense of shame. It’s something I’ve used a lot when my disabling chronic health condition has meant that I’ve needed assistance from strangers. I Heart Me author David Hamilton often recommends silly dancing as a great way to diffuse and overcome difficult emotions like shame.
So, how can you make play and creativity a habit? Here are a couple of ideas, and remember; it’s easier to keep habits if they’re obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
How can you make play and creativity really obvious to you? Can you stick a post-it note up on your bathroom mirror perhaps, or add a reminder to your phone? Can you write yourself a note that says, “I give myself permission .. to play at least once today”?
How can you make this habit attractive? Who can you be playful with? How can being playful and creative be rewarding for you? Perhaps you can join a choir or a writer’s group, so that you get to meet new people.
How can you make it easy? What would you love to try? Take out your list of habits from February’s post; can you “stack” your new creative habit (perhaps knitting a row of stitches every day, or doing a doodle at night) and add it to something you do already (like getting on the bus for work or making a drink to take to bed)?
How can you make it satisfying? How can you feel immediately successful, so you feel rewarded for your efforts? One of the biggest barriers for trying new things is the discomfort we feel about being rubbish at it for a while. But you only need 20 hours to become proficient at something, as this great video explains.
Need more inspiration or encouragement? Check out this amazing playlist of videos about the science and importance of play