The Art of Play (or doing nothing)

The end of summer. The hottest part. Cicadas are droning. Even the lake is starting to feel more like bath water. School is just about to start up. What else can you do but play? 
Charlie Hoehn wrote in his book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety, 
“Have you ever witnessed a little kid working out on a treadmill? Or meeting up with a friend to chat over coffee? Or attending a networking conference to hand out business cards? Hell no! That stuff is LAME and BORING. If you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would laugh and wonder what was wrong with them. Kids don’t run to get in shape; they run to feel the wind in their face and the grass beneath their feet. Kids don’t chat over coffee; they make jokes and play games with their friends. Kids don’t network; they bond while they’re having fun together. There is no ego. There is no guilt. There is no past to regret, and no future to worry about. They just play. And that’s what I’d forgotten, what I’d been missing, all along.”

There is so much freedom in playing. It opens up our creativity capacity. We improvise, experiment, make up rules and new rules just to keep the game going. We loose ourselves and track of time. Most of all, we’re laughing which has its own enormous health issues.

Flow state is the most productive state of being. Steven Kotler writes in The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, “In flow, we are so focused on the task at hand that everything else falls away. Action and awareness merge. Time flies. Self vanishes. Performance goes through the roof…Flow is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best. It is a transformation available to anyone, anywhere, provided that certain initial conditions are met.”

You won’t reach flow state by pushing through. You get there when you relax a little. Play is an excellent way to begin that relaxation and unlock creativity. Take your meetings outside. Go for a walk or play ball in a park. Instead of exercising on a treadmill, go hike in nature. Instead of watching TV, grab some crayons and color (there are plenty of adult coloring books for those who need lines to stay within). Need some unconventional ideas for how to play as an adult?

  • Turn your house into a drive-in theater. Project a movie on the wall or a white screen and invite your friends and neighbors over.
  • Have a tick-check party.
  • Apply masking tape before sunbathing, to give yourself slimming, vertical-striped tan lines.
  • Swim naked (watch for snakes).
  • Renew the search for Jimmy Hoffa.
  • Pick up a hitchhiker and bring him to your BBQ.
  • Put a Slip ‘n Slide (or large tarp) on a hill, turn on the water hose, and be a kid again.
  • Go for a drive on the highway, and spend the day trying to get truck drivers to honk at you.
  • Pay for something in all pennies.
  • Host a scavenger hunt with friends make it a walking version.
  • Have fun being wedding crashers with a friend or two.
  • Have a talent show.
  • Go to the lake and do cannonballs. Or, get everyone to do it and have a cannonball competition.
  • Attempt to break a world record. (no lie, I actually got to do this in April and we succeeded!)
  • Have a friendly competition to see who can collect the most of something.
  • Go roller skating.
  • Give friends a guided ghost tour of your town using stories of people you know (and are probably still alive).
  • Ride a mechanical bull.
  • Have a water balloon fight.
  • Visit the nearest amusement park or theme park and enjoy the rides. If you haven’t been on a roller coaster before, try it!
  • Use rock, paper, scissors to settle everything this summer.

I’d love to hear from you if you try anything from this list!