Seriously, are you having enough fun?

Playtime is getting short shrift, and while children might be the ones most obviously suffering the consequences through slashed recess, obesity, and a slavish attention to resume-building activities, adults need to whoop it up, too. Studies show that a break from work can lead you to take fewer sick days and be more productive and inventive when you're back at your desk. But long weekends and bona fide vacations are like a Nessie spotting for most of us -- incredibly elusive and possibly just a myth. Even still, scientists insist that, much like exercise and drinking all those glasses of water a day, we need to find a way to make fun happen. And really, I can think of worse prescriptions than, "Go play!"

The National Institute of Play
takes play as serious business, calling good old-fashioned fun vital to our health and relationships: "A life or a culture devoid of or deficient in play exists as a heightened major public health risk factor. The prevalence of depression, stress related diseases, interpersonal violence, the addictions, and other health and well being problems can be linked, like a deficiency disease, to the prolonged deprivation of play." So how can we have more fun?

Get outside. For adults who haven't played since grade school, going outside is the easiest way to get into the playtime spirit. Simply stepping outdoors can bring out the playfulness in many of us, but if you need a more concrete activity, head to a playground. Squeeze into a swing and pump away.

Do what you love.
Maybe there's a passion you've given up as you've grown older. Well, it's high time to dig through the attic to find the tennis racket, doll house, or roller skates. Doctor's orders. Embrace the activities that made you lose sense of time and laugh.

Object play. When was the last time you threw a frisbee, flew a kite, or kicked around a soccer ball? These are great ways to get in family playtime, too.

Bring out the parlor games. The next time you have a dinner party or family night, play charades. The thinking on the spot and being flexible to new problems is good for your brain.

Body play. One of the reasons I love yoga and step aerobics are the moments when it just feels like we're playing. Our usual physical movements, walking and sitting, are usually linear and predictable. But headstands, twirls, and grapevines? That's fun. Just turning on your favorite song and jumping around the living room can feel exhilerating.

Pretend. Make-believe, once you're over a certain age, isn't all that cool. But think about this: our culture idolizes actors and they pretend for a living. Hunt the web for your favorite movie script or play, and invite friends and family to come over and act it out. The prop of a written document can be a real crutch for those who aren't quite ready for full-blown LARP-ing.

Word play. Play doesn't always have to be rambunctious, physical fun. Quiet activities like crosswords, sudoku and reading all count as play, too. Squeeze some wordy fun in on your commute or while you're standing at the stove waiting for the pasta to cook.

Do you think play is an important part of adult life? What do you do to let loose?

Read more life-improving ideas on Real-Life Makeover:

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