Playfulness, laughter, smiles. How readily and easily accessible are these for you? Is your life weighted down with all the tragedies and worries of the world, or those closer to home?
Chronic stress - the day-to-day annoyances, outbursts and travails that grind away at you - can break your funny bone, shatter your ability to break out in spontaneous smiles or tickle the ears of those around you with your laughter.
On the scale of lightheartedness or playfulness, my natural and learned tendency is weighted towards the serious side. As the decades rolled by, life challenges began to wear me down and out. Then, I read a book that changed everything for me! I had no idea that the constant worry about - oh, everything! - was actually slamming the windows shut on the joys in life, which included the ability to be playful.
By understanding what stress is and learning how to treat the cause, as opposed to the symptoms, I have become more willing and able to engage in the heart-shifting joys of play.
This doesn't mean, as Judy Cashmore, a Nia instructor, so eloquently stated in her newsletter:
"... being goofy, making up games, or joshing around. Rather, I'm referring to consciously choosing to engage with life. Stepping up and joining in to meet each moment."
Play anchors you to the present, something a chronic worrier skips right over. As Abraham Maslow states:
"The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness."
Physical and emotional, too!
In a delightful TED Talk, Tim Brown discusses Creativity and Play. A few of his points were made by engaging the audience in activity. Judging by their laughter, they thoroughly enjoyed the exercises they were asked to perform.
The positive feelings that are generated activate a different part of the brain; one that promotes creativity. Something that they take seriously at their organisation, Ideo. Tim Brown stresses that "play is not anarchy" and that "you can be serious and work."
"Play is more than fun." - Stuart Brown
In this TED talk he explains why play is essential and how we establish the basis of human trust through play. He also points out that many people begin to lose the ability to play as they age.
It can be hard to be playful if you are living under a heavy cloud of stress. Stress dampens your spirit, and leads to fatigue and illness. Your view of the world may always be from a place of negativity - the proverbial half-empty glass. There's certainly no room for playfulness there. You may notice, or maybe you won't, but your friends and family will, that the more you are serious, the seriouser you get. It's similar to the shaking you do to remove an electrically-charged piece of plastic from your finger. The more rapidly you shake, the greater the cling.
Learn to develop your awareness by recognizing when you are soaking in negative thoughts and emotions. Acquire knowledge about what stress is, and more importantly, how to transform it. Finally, practice, practice, practice your new skills and behaviours.
If you're ready to improve your long-range play forecast, I'd be honoured to take you through a series of five one-hour coaching sessions. Contact me to find out which program best suits you.
This was originally published in my June 2011 newsletter.