To improve mood and think better — go to recess

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. As for Jack’s parents—well, they should take a cue from that proverb as well.

Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, has spent his career studying play and its positive effects on adults. He has consulted for Fortune 500 companies on how to incorporate play into business settings and has used play therapies to help people struggling with clinical depression.

Why would a grown man put so much work into helping grown-ups play? Because, as Brown argues in his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, play has the power to make you smarter.

“During play, the brain is making sense of itself through simulation and testing,” Brown writes. “Play activity is actually helping sculpt the brain. In play, we can imagine and experience situations we have never encountered before and learn from them.”

And that means that play has a direct role in creativity. “The genius of play is that, in playing, we create imaginative new cognitive combinations,” Brown continues. “And in creating those novel combinations, we find what works.”

You may be wondering, as an adult why do you need to improve your creative ability? For starters, creativity jumpstarts the problem-solving process. And no matter whether you hold a job or are a stay-at-home-parent, or a retiree — you likely solve several problems a day.

Now if you think you’re beyond the age of learning new tricks, even through play, don’t forget you have an amazing “plastic” brain. Dr. Cutler wrote about neuroplasticity recently — the ability of your brain to reconfigure neuronal circuits and speed up how fast they work.

With each new experience (thought, stimulus, or event) your brain slightly re-wires its physical structure. This means you can learn to like new foods tastes, evolve your thoughts into good-feeling ones (i.e. thoughts that cause good emotions within you), and even train new motor skills through repeated thoughts.

So it makes perfect sense that creative play could improve your cognitive habits and improve performance where your creative skills are needed.

What forms of play can help your grown-up mind the best? According to Brown, play is a state of mind, not a specific activity. So you may want to see what’s easily available to you and would allow you a break or two during the day to have some play time.

At the office, keeping a coloring book and crayons in your desk could provide some much needed time to refocus at your desk.

At home, you might want to enjoy a game or two or three on your Wii or gaming station of choice. Or better yet, an old fashioned board game.

But whatever floats your boat, your grown-up mind could use — and benefit from — some purposeful playtime.

Easy Health Options Staff

By Easy Health Options Staff

Submitted by the staff at Easy Health Options®.