Play your way to Mental Health & Happiness

By Dr. Nancy Buck

Not long ago I had the privilege of observing a mother and her two young children grocery shopping. One child was strapped into the carriage seat. The other looked to be age 5-years or so. This amazing mother walked down one aisle of the store, looking for her needed items. Then she paused, took the baby out of the seat standing him next to the carriage, and all three of them began to “boogie” to the piped in store muzak. The session didn’t last too long, but wasn’t just a moment either. It was amazing! I continued to follow them up and down a couple of more aisles just to watch. Their same practice continued. Sometime the Mom felt inspired for some twists and jig steps. Sometimes it was one or the other of the children. But whoever felt the urge and the beat got to call a “dance” time out to incorporate play into their chore. They were all in great joy and bliss. I’m only sorry now I didn’t go and join them. They were so happy in their own private dance party in the grocery store.

Recently I read about a new aerobic exercise created by a New Yorker. He was inspired observing another fellow. This guy was “plugged into” his music and danced along the streets of New York. Our inventor recognized the perfect kind of aerobic activity for him. He started practicing that very day, carrying a boom-box on his shoulder so others could hear his music and beat. Sometimes he met people walking along the same sidewalk with him and they would join him in the dance. Other times he was alone, happy to be dancing and singing! I’m ready to give this a try on the streets of Denver, Colorado!

Can you imagine your work day including breaks where dancing and singing, sitting on the floor and eating cookies and milk with your friends, and playing outside is the norm? Can you imagine how refreshed you would be to return to your work following any one of these breaks? Your productivity and creativity would grow exponentially, as long as you could avoid any feelings of embarrassment or inhibition about your playful behavior in front of your colleagues.

If you want to improve you Mental Health & Happiness play more. Your play does not have to include dancing only. You can sing. You can juggle. Ask a friend/colleague to play catch with you using a balloon, helium or no. Learn to ride a unicycle. Start singing like Elvis, or any other singing hero you desire to imitate.

Let a 4-year old be your guide. In fact, go visit a preschool and watch how they spend their days. We need to incorporate more dancing, singing, marching and snack time with friends into our daily routines too.

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