The Healing Power of Play


Summer-Time, Fun-Time, is just around the corner. When I think of summer I think of long days spent outside with the only purpose being to play. Some people might believe play is only meant for children. Research tells us a different story. Play, as described by Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How it Shapes The Brain, Opens The Imagination, and Invigorates The Soul, is done for the sheer pleasure of it.

“When we are fully engaged in play, we lose a sense of the passage of  time. We also experience diminished consciousness of self. We stop  worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid. We stop  thinking about the fact that we are thinking. In imaginative play, we can  even be a different self. We are fully in the moment, in the zone. We are  experiencing what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’”(p. 16).

Brown goes on to tell us that play is instrumental in our survival as well as the growth of our brain, for both children and adults. I know some of you are thinking, “being a responsible adult means I can’t spend all day, every day playing like I used to, I have a   J-O-B!” 

Good point. But that does NOT mean we have to abstain from playing completely. We can and NEED to find small bits of time to engage in our own unique form of play. Whether that is playing a board game with your kids, getting out some markers, glue and glitter and unleashing your inner Picasso, or just losing yourself in cooking, arranging flowers, or gardening. As long as your “purpose” is just for the pleasure of that activity and nothing else, you are engaged in play.

Why am I talking about play instead of pain? Because what I learned from my journey out of pain is that while I attended to my physical discomforts, I also needed to shift my mental focus away from pain, which was my past self,  and toward pleasure, which was the future self I was longing for. The path out of pain MUST include re-training the brain to see and believe in a new version of yourself.  Looking back, I see I was not only stuck in a physical pain loop, but also in a mental perception of myself. The more I found the time for pleasure rituals, the less I focused on and identified with my pain. Over time I began to see a clearer vision of my life without pain. The proof is in the pudding as they say. I am pain-free for over two years now and instead of feeling depressed about what I can’t do, I am thrilled every day with what I can do.

Here’s to living pain free!!