The Healing Power of Play

I have been re-reading and re-listening to one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, lately. She is a social researcher who specializes in issues such as vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. I get very convicted by much of what she has to say on these issues and with recent events in my life that shook me to my core, I found I needed to re-hear much of what she had to say.

She presents what she calls ten guideposts that lead to wholehearted living. Brown defines wholehearted living as:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging.”

While I really need to work on some of those guideposts (possibly future blogs); some I can happily report “I have this down.” Two of the guideposts I want to address today are

  • Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self‐Worth
  • Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

In fact, Brené Brown equates being cool with an emotional straight jacket and I have to agree.

Rainy Day fort making with mom and grandma

Rainy Day fort making with mom and grandma

We are a really goofy family. When you walk in here, leave “cool, calm, and collected” at the door because well, we just aren’t that way. Just the other night we were so uncool that we choreographed a square dance to Timber. Ya, that song about twerking, we square danced to it. We dance, play dress up, build forts, shoot nerf guns (yes at each other), and carry out all sorts of mischief here. The world is such a serious place, this is our sanctuary where we can get as silly as we want.

There have been a few moments in past years where I have caught myself doing something crazy and thought, “my God am I just totally immature?” Now that I am over 40 and have gone through a few years of serious grief and heartache, I find that I play even more and the thoughts of immaturity no longer haunt me.

Lori adds her own head to the headless dead body - This is how we take a work break.

Lori adds her own head to the headless dead body – This is how we take a work break.

And, this extends beyond our home and being around kids. I think it is easy as a parent to create a safe zone and play around the kids but shut this off as soon as we are in “adult territory.” Find a co-conspirator to play with. One of my favorite co-conspirators is Lori. When we worked together we practiced daily acts of random shenanigans including playing with the forensics department’s dead body. I mean, could you walk by a headless dead body and not play with it?

My mother-in-law understands how to play too. One late night shopping trip brought us to McDonalds. We both ordered happy meals despite being sans kids and even got excited over our toys. We took a happy meal selfie. In fact, we were so uncool that we garnished the attention of everyone in there who complimented us on making their evening more fun.

My Mother-in-law and I with our Happy Meals

My Mother-in-law and I with our Happy Meals

So, I ask you all…What are you so scared of? Let your children dress you and style your hair. Do something crazy to lighten up the mood at work or in a public space. Play, dance, jump up and down, get excited. Brené Brown talks about the importance of showing up and being seen. I think if more people showed up wearing a princess crown or finger puppets, the world would be a much more exciting place.

For those of you interested in the fabulous Brené Brown, here are some links to check out:

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