Love & Life

Ever since I was a kid, if there was a racetrack at an amusement park, I’m either in line or already burning rubber.

As soon as the park staff releases the drivers, something in me instinctively takes over. I automatically know how to close the gap between me and the driver ahead and my hands know precisely when to turn the wheel in unison with my right foot easing on the accelerator to achieve the sharpest of turns.

In mere seconds, I’m going the distance and I’m going for speed.

As an adult, when I’m careening down the racecourse, my familial, parental and occupational responsibilities disappear. I become a kid again, playing without a care in the world.

Playing is second nature for kids, but its benefits are crucial for adults. It promotes our physical and mental health, boosts creativity, reduces stress and releases endorphins. According to developmental psychology professor Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, playing also improves emotional intelligence.

However, everyone’s definition of play is different. It could be a solitary game of Sudoku during a plane ride, swaying on a swing like you did when you were a kid, singing while you clean the house or rock climbing with friends.

Play expert Yesim Kunter says, “Being happy, relaxed, free, feeling like time is flowing, not constantly checking your watch – those things signify that you are in play mode.”

And play mode helps to make “adulting” more bearable: listening to your favorite Broadway musical while paying household bills, cuddling with your pet while waiting on the line for customer service or using colorful pens to doodle during a conference call.

With numerous tasks on our to-do lists, adults sometimes need a little nudge to reconnect with our inner child. But when our responsibilities intersect with play, we can experience a certain joie de vivre, an exuberant enjoyment of life.

I believe that God created us to have immense joy in our oftentimes busy lives. In fact, the word joy appears more than 200 times in the Bible.

A little play can go a long way in bringing joy back into our lives so that we can be a better wife, husband, parent, boss, employee or friend.

So whatever it is that makes you smile from ear to ear, find it and do it. Go out and play.

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Nina Ha.

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