Happiest start to sweet summertime! In our couples counseling and coaching practice, we tend to notice certain themes run through our office — with the challenges couples are experiencing and with the very things that would create the breakthroughs.
One of the big themes we’ve noticed recently is this: so many couples have lost touch with PLAYING together. Yes…PLAY!
When we refer to play, we’re referring to “play” as a way of stepping away from the world of tasks, distractions, and to-do-lists, as well as “playfulness,” which is a spirit in which we can approach just about anything!
Before we go on with some tips we hope are helpful for rejuvenating play, we first want to speak to those of you…
…who think you have too much to do and not enough time for play
…who bought into the myth that play is for children and not for adults
…and/or who are having a hard time imagining playing with the person you feel anything but playful with recently.
If any of these things resonate, we invite you to consider this…
We are convinced that play is an essential part of our greatest well-being. It increases our emotional and social intelligence (hugely important for relating!), lights up the learning centers of the brain (allowing us to think of more win-win solutions with our partner!), allows us to have more empathy, reduces stress, energizes us, bonds and connects us, makes us more productive and wiser about how we use our time, boosts joy, and so much more.
Play is so valuable that many corporations and workplaces are now realizing the value of play and incorporating it into the workplace. Just check out these pics of (top) YouTube and (bottom) the famous Google offices.
In fact, play is so important that research shows that most people who have committed serial murders were deprived of play early in life. Yes, play is that important when it comes to developing into balanced, kind, healthy, and happy adults!
Plus, because of our mirror neurons, which science is understanding more and more about, we reflect the internal state of those around us. Therefore, we could allow our beloved (and others) to bring us down, or we could focus on showing up with our own positive spirit in a way that models it and invites them to engage more joyously with us. We find the latter to be way more effective. Of course, choose forms of play that aren’t teasing and that are welcoming and encouraging.
Also, when you feel disconnected from your beloved and don’t feel like playing with them, it may be the very thing you need in order to come back into loving connection. Play can interrupt patterns, melt tension, and shift your dynamic so quickly! When we’re stressed, we humans are the most disconnected from each other and are only operating from certain aspects of ourselves. When we are in a playful state, we can access so much more of ourselves, can more readily feel each other’s hearts and share our own, and we can show up more as who we really are and want to be.
As far as time goes, we all have a limited amount, and we have time for those things for which we make time. We can’t possibly make time for everything, so just be sure that you are making time for what is most important to you. If someone asked you how much time you have for stress, you’d probably answer that you don’t have any extra time to spend on stress! 😉 And yet how much time do you honestly spend in disconnect, stress, worry, conflict, etc.?
When it comes to time, it’s so important to make sure that how we spend it reflects what leads to overall life satisfaction. Plus, the neat thing about play is that, because of how it rejuvenates and connects us, it can actually end up saving us time and help us use our other moments much more wisely!
Again, to reiterate:
– play is practical
– play is efficient + effective
– play is for everyone, all ages, no exceptions
– play can save us time
All this leads into our first tip…
(1) VALUE PLAYFULNESS + PLAY
One of the biggest barriers to having more play is that people don’t put a high enough value on it. Take a moment with your beloved to talk about how you can re-value the importance of play in your relationship. Talk about how much playfulness you have right now and then how different things would be if you started to engage in more. Together, remember how important play (activities removed from “tasks”) and playfulness (the spirit you can use to approach anything) are, and recommit to filling your life with more of these connecting, joyful, quality moments.
(2) PRIORITIZE PLAY + PUT IT ON YOUR TO-DO LIST
Not only do we want to encourage you to reignite how much you choose to value play in your relationship, we invite you to prioritize it. There may be many things you value but don’t necessarily prioritize and intentionally create space for. We don’t want to let that happen to playfulness!
What we find with so many couples is that their lives have become a never-ending list of to-do’s, logistics, errands, running the kids to all their activities, work, chores…and repeat…day after day.
In the busyness of life, there can feel like endless demands on our time, so if we don’t very intentionally and clearly prioritize play and celebrating life together, something else will easily fill its place.
For some of you, this will be about creating more work-play balance. For others of you, it will be about using your time not spent on tasks more wisely, joyously, and intentionally (i.e. rather than scrolling social media for 20 minutes, take a blanket outside to go look at the stars and share with each other the different images you see in the sky).
If you are a YES person and have a hard time saying “no” to others or not tending to everything on your list, we invite you to pay attention to the corresponding consequence. On some level, every YES has a corresponding NO. In other words, when you are trying to be everything to everyone else other than your beloved, innocently and unintentionally, it’s like you are saying “no” to having a thriving, joyful relationship with the one person who probably means more to you than anyone else.
Next time your sweetheart invites you to pause for a few moments and play, we encourage you to break the pattern of saying “no” (with words or body language), put down what you are doing, and take even a few minutes to delight in a brief but fully connected and joyful moment together.
Did you now that the #1 predictor of a person’s happiness is the quality of their relationships? So, if you want to invest your time in the one area that will reap the greatest payout in your life, it’s your relationship, and playing together is key!
(3) UNPLUG FROM TECHNOLOGY + INTO EXPERIENCES
Again, we live during a time when there are things continually calling at our attention and time. What we’ve discovered is that a lot of these things come out of technology – social media, incoming texts and calls and emails, news articles popping up, television shows, ads, etc. Because these things appear more “urgent,” as in they are continually trying to get our attention, we tend to unintentionally go on prioritizing them, instead of the things that are less-urgent but a whole lot more essential and connected to what matters most to us.
Here’s our suggestion. Have small moments daily and longer moments weekly when you put down your phone. Turn it off. At the least, turn it on silent. Unplug from electronics altogether. Do something where you can be fully present just having FUN. Step away from your everyday tasks. Focus on having EXPERIENCES together.
At the end of your life, if you aren’t creating experiences, we imagine you will regret not taking those extra moments to play, laugh together, and be fully present, and it’s not too late. There is still time!
Also, we encourage you to actually schedule time on your calendar for play to make sure it happens. Schedule time to go for a hike, listen to live music, take an art class (we recently had a blast at Wine and Canvas here in Bloomington, IN), go for a swim, go to a comedy show (we loved going to Comedy Attic), take a dance class, throw a frisbee, ride bikes (and, like us, you can easily rent them downtown by the hour if you don’t own them), go swim in a lake, take a tour, pack a picnic, attend a local event, or have an adventure someplace new. In the summertime, there are especially lots of opportunities to play!
(4) INFUSE EVERYDAY MOMENTS WITH MORE PLAYFULNESS + JOY
Play doesn’t at all need to just be about taking an afternoon or evening to go do something entertaining. We are also talking about the spirit of playfulness you can fit into your life, no matter how full a given day is. For example, when you are cooking dinner, doing laundry, or getting ready for the day, see what you can do to sprinkle in the spirit of playfulness. One easy way to do so? Try singing or putting on some music and dancing while you go!
We also invite you to bring on the silly factor! Be willing to get goofy, bring in lightness, and laugh freely.
In our marriage, we have a high level of commitment, individually and together, to make sure there is joy in the journey and that we laugh together daily, usually many times. It’s truly one of the top ways we measure success and the quality of our lives. In addition to reflecting on things like how much love we put into whatever we did, how much connection we experienced, and how much we served the world, we think about how much joy we felt along the way.
At the end of the day or in between clients, we can often be found playing chase around this piece of wall that adjoins our kitchen and living room (yes, we can both totally unleash our inner goofs!), wrestling together with our doggies on the floor, jumping on the trampoline with our son when he’s home from college, or singing hilarious songs we improvise together.
How much time does it take to sprinkle in little moments here and there or to infuse moments with more playfulness? Either no time at all or less than 5-10 minutes. How much connection does it create? A LOT. How much time does it likely SAVE you from being stressed and disconnected? A LOT!
So, there you have it:
- VALUE play
- PRIORITIZE play
- UNPLUG from technology and to-do’s in order to create EXPERIENCES
- Bring a SPIRIT OF PLAYFULNESS into everyday moments
We know some of this may sound really simple, but we bring it up because it’s so important when it comes to creating a fulfilled, balanced, connected, joyful life together, and we thought some of you might be in need of a little loving reminder! 🙂
Also, if you want to really boost the amount of positive energy and joy in your relationship (which can truly change everything!), we want to warmly invite you to the Awakening Your Joy Potential retreat, created and led by Christine. During the course of this weekend, you will learn, experience, and put into practice the roadmap to cultivating true and lasting joy in mind, body, heart, and spirit (and you’ll learn the neuroscience behind why it works!). DETAILS + REGISTRATION: JoyPotential.com/retreat
Wishing you an abundance of playful moments that renew the love and joy of your union and reconnect you to one another and to what matters most!
Infinite Love and Joy,
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