Play - Essential for Good Mental Health

Yesterday I went to a water-park with my family. I am now injured, as I let three strong children pile onto me in the pool while we wrestled and chased each other. I queued with a bunch of 10-year olds for a water-slide. I started that slide North of forty, and lost about 3 decades as I flew down. Great memories of water-slides past came rushing back. I have noticed that the more I Google images of play and fun, the more I am startled by the lack of images of adults playing and enjoying themselves. There is a myriad of smiling, laughing children, but none of adults. Conversely, if I look up ennui or boredom, I see a myriad of adults in suits pouting back at me. It seems the terms adults and play seem mutually exclusive.

Play is essential for all of us. In one hour of fun I shed hours of rumination, stress and unnecessary mental maps of the upcoming days. My children sensed the switch to "fun mum" and piled on top of me. I enjoyed being "fun mum" too, more than I enjoy being the planning, working, all-being person I am generally.

The reality is everything fun-related doesn't always come in an adult size. I have seen playgrounds with notices restricting access to children over the age of 10. Despite the countless benefits to our mental health that play brings, facilitating play as a grown-up is harder. It doesn't seem to be the done thing at all.

I facilitate workshops on Team-building and Creative Problem-Solving. A large part of my work is facilitating exercises where people play. Sometimes people are reluctant at first, largely due to the fact that play has become all too unfamiliar. Then they participate, and I watch as the burden of stress falls away, and people finally get to let go. They communicate meaningfully with their peers as they share an experience that has become all-too rare. Fun. It shouldn't be this way. We don't stop needing fun when we turn 18. That's just when we need it more.

It's Tracy Aspel

County Limerick

+353 861 224455