As a play and mindset coach, I use the power of play and the subconscious to reconnect humans with their childlike wonder to bring more colour, confidence and joy into their lives. The goal is to live life playfully, not “perfectly.” When we embrace play, we can live a fully expressed life that lights us up.
Before we start, let’s clarify what the heck play is! Play means connecting with our curiosity and childlike wonder. It’s not competitive; it means exploring self-expression with no outcome. It likely feels purposeless, but it’s remarkably purposeful.
To truly connect with ourselves, we need to play; it opens up what’s possible for us and expands our life. It brings more joy, fun, creativity, adaptability and productivity. Overall, playing improves our health and well-being in radical ways.
As many dancers are facing a great deal of anxiety about returning to work after more than a year stuck at home, here are some ideas to add more play to your day to help manage the transition with more lightness:
Get messy. The true spirit of play allows us to let go of the need to do something a certain way. It helps us find safety and wholeness when our worth isn’t attached to how well we do something. Try finger painting, face painting and jumping in puddles. My clients often feel most averse to these, but they end up being their favourite way to play.
Shake it up. If you’re feeling stuck, play! Try doing a shaking meditation. It helps you change up your energy while you let go of what is not serving you. Set an intention of what you want to let go of and shake for two to five minutes. I also love changing up my energy with movement or even blindfolded eating to connect to my senses and the present moment. When we shake up our energy, we’ll feel more energized and ready to go back to whatever we needed a break from.
Befriend Play-Doh. The tactile stuff from our childhood activates our senses (and play is very sensory). When we play with it, we ease our tension, reduce cortisol (the primary hormone responsible for stress), spark our creativity and fire up our brain. We also open our brain to new solutions, and the bonus: it gets to be really fun (my inner child loves it). While we’re doing something like this, we can unconsciously work out problems as well.
Dance like an animal. Yup, you heard me. As you know, movement brings us those endorphins we all love. Since we’re often taught to dance in a way that looks good, moving playfully is liberating and healing; we get to connect with our childlike wonder and spontaneity. It’s not about a certain outcome. Put on your favourite childhood song and dance around like an animal (maybe it’s a horse, a fish, a bird, whatever you want). Liberated self-expression is deeply healing.
Solve problems playfully. If problems come up, whether in the workplace, at home, wherever, ask yourself: How can I consider this situation more playfully? How can I solve this in a way that’s fun for me? You can also come up with playful solutions. They don’t even necessarily need to make sense to start. The reason we do this is to break our state, to get out of our anxiety, stress or whatever is keeping us stuck in our problem. When we start thinking more playfully, our energy will change and new solutions can unconsciously come up.
Kara Latta is the founder and chief fun officer of The Playful Warrior, the creator of ThoughtPLAY and a member of the Dance Media Group board of directors.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2021 issue.