15th July 2022

In last week’s All Stitched Up! (LINK to Welcome in ASU #338) we walked through the ways in which Ingrid Fetell Lee plays her way through solving problems.

Just after sharing these thoughts, we noticed an email from Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith that posed the question ‘Could Playing More Improve Your Health?’. Our interest was instantly piqued and so we read on.

Saundra works as a work-life integration researcher. As a result, she often comes across fascinating articles that link the connectivity between various aspects of life including science, spirituality, psychology and productivity. In the email we came across, Saundra shared some of her favourite articles on how to boost your happiness.

An article from the BBC unpacked the reasons ‘Why Playing Games is Good for You.

Amongst others, the article quoted the work of Federica Pallavicini. After coming to realise that playing video games had become a form of therapy in her day-to-day life, Federica used this realisation to inspire her career in research. Over time, she came to understand that ‘adults who demonstrate more playful personality traits are more motivated, creative and spontaneous’ and that those who are ‘more playfully inclined are often open to trying a wider variety of activities’ with some links even showing that those who play have lower blood pressure.

Often, however, most of us stop playing as adults, so how can we learn to play again?

Professor René Proyer suggests something as simple as listing three moments at the end of each day where something spontaneous or playful happened. He believes this will make us more aware of the joy that can be found in our everyday lives and will encourage us to explore the idea of play further.

‘Playfulness should be viewed as a skill that can be developed, harnessed and used for mindfulness.’

Sometimes the development of a skill can be more easily harnessed when we understand the why behind its what. For Federica, she puts the mental health benefits of playing video games down to achieving a state of ‘flow’ which is ‘the optimal experience when nothing else matters’.

Those of us who indulge our love of needle and thread are well versed in this state as we often find the world around us slips away as we lose ourselves in the meditative push and pull of needle and thread through fabric.

But perhaps there are times we need to simply ‘play’ with needle and thread? Not because of what we can achieve but simply for its sheer joy as Federica believes that ‘playing to find the flow state can provide an enjoyable challenge and distraction from mental health issues, meaning the player can work on their wellbeing without feeling pressured to improve’.

Playing with needle and thread? Now that sounds like a ‘prescription’ we can follow!

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