Engage your inner child to stay present and grounded

Whether with Legos, dolls, or their imaginations alone, children love to play, and they do it often and unapologetically. They don’t have to pencil it into their schedules. They lose themselves completely in their games. (This is no surprise to anyone who’s tried to talk to a kid engaged in a game of tag or checkers.) 

When was the last time you lost yourself fully to something other than work or chores?

Adults, with our busy schedules and long list of to-dos, don’t consider play as important as all the other things we have to accomplish. In fact, many of us feel guilty if we take a break or think leisure is something for the rich and famous. Sure, we take vacations and go to happy hours, but we don’t make an effort to relax and let go each and every day.  

 And we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Mindful play keeps us grounded in the moment and can even calm racing thoughts. It’s an important, oft-neglected form of self care that can be done almost anywhere at any time.

Here are six ways to integrate more play into your daily mindfulness practice; give them a shot and let us know what you think.

Think back

When in doubt, consider the past. How did you like to play as a kid? Did you rely on your imagination? Maybe you loved building blocks or painting. This is a great place to start when you consider how to integrate more play into your life. If you played make believe, maybe you’d like to write a story, and if you painted, invest in some new watercolors. Building blocks translate well into model airplanes. Your inner child will help lead the way.


Find the wow

What color are your dinner plates? What about the walls of your favorite coffee shop? We move through life so fixated on the million things on our plate that we forget to pause and enjoy the moment. When you walk into a room—whether it’s a new place or one that you’ve been to a million times—take a moment to really take it in like a child experiencing it for the first time. Appreciate the shade of paint on the walls and the solid floor beneath your feet. Run your fingers over the pillows, blankets, or other textured items, and consider the way the light streams in from the window. No matter where you are, you can always take a moment to find the wow in your surroundings.


Bring a book

But not the kind you’re thinking about. Nope, we’re not talking about reading. Invest in a pocket-sized book of crossword puzzles, word searches, or sudoku. When you feel your mind racing or just need a pick-me-up, grab a warm drink and commit to a puzzle. It’s just a few minutes out of your day to let everything go except for the task at hand. This type of play can be done anywhere if you remember to bring your book with you. You can install an app on your phone or computer to engage in this type of play, but it’s better to get away from your screens if you can.


Call for backup

If these ideas feel too zany for you, ease yourself into play by engaging a friend or a group of like-minded people. Make plans to go see the latest comedy movie or eat lunch in a new restaurant. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, organize a group to go on a hike or host game night. It can be easier for adults to give themselves over fully to an activity if they have someone there to enjoy it with. 


Engage the youth

What better way to play like a kid than engage in a game with a child. If you have kids at home or close friends with kids, make it a point to play with them the next time you’re around them. Get curious. Ask them questions about their game, and don’t laugh at the answers. Sit on the floor and help with their puzzle, dollhouse, or make believe. By committing yourself fully to the game, just like the kid, you’ll understand what it’s like to play again without embarrassment or concern for all the other things you could be doing. Try to bring this unbridled and spontaneous energy into your own mindful play.


The rule of One

The rule is as follows: laugh once a day and do something new once a month. The first part of the rule may sound simple, but there are surely days and even weeks that pass in a stressful blur where you can’t recall much of what happened. Even in these moments, go out of your way to chat with someone who has a fun and engaging personality, call a sibling, or watch a funny video. The more you get into the practice of laughing, the more you’ll find to laugh about. When it comes to the second part of the rule, at the beginning of each month, pick one new thing you want to do. It could involve traveling a town over to check out a new store or learning a few words in a new language. This should be fun and different from what you do for work or with your family. The idea is to make a conscious effort to get out of your routine and enjoy the moment.