Go Play. Release Your Burdens and Grow Stronger
Muscles don’t grow when you lift weights. In fact, muscles get broken when you lift weights. The point at which muscles do their growing is during rest. The same holds true for academic work. Have you ever studied hard at a subject only to get frustrated by your progress because more work isn’t producing results? When you take time off, instead of muscling through, you always come back stronger. Rest, in my experience, is the key to making progress. Dr. Stuart Brown wrote a book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. His book agrees with that hypothesis. His philosophy is that play time is as essential for growing kids as it is for adults who are stuck in a rut. Kids play because it releases energy and breaks up their intense bouts of learning. Kids, despite our visions of them only working when we sit them down at a table to do math problems and playing during every other waking moment, spend most of their time learning, not playing. Everything around them is new and everything needs processing, and that’s a tax on their brains. Play is a natural release and it’s absolutely necessary for healthy brain function.
You Aren’t Much Different than your Kids:
Adults can get bored by their surroundings. You wake up every day to the same, familiar routine, and you do all the same, familiar things. Your mental health suffers under those circumstances. If you’re bored with your life or if feel you aren’t making progress, try playing. Join a basketball league or a chess club. Do something on your weekends and free time that releases you from your burdens of having to fret over what’s due and what you don’t know. I spent a year studying Spanish in Mexico back in 1996. I spent every day listening to and trying to absorb the language. After 3 months my brain actually hurt and I could sense that I just didn’t care anymore. I started to avoid listening to Spanish, and I started trying to find people with whom to speak English instead. Then I went to Boston for Christmas. For three weeks I didn’t think about Spanish, and I busied myself with wedding preparations and Christmas shopping (Mely and I got married at the end of the year). When I returned to Mexico I was amazed at the progress my Spanish had made despite not having spoken a word in three weeks. I understood more, could speak more, and I enjoyed learning again. My mind grew because I deliberately left behind the thing that was troubling me.
Some Suggestions: Do something that completely removes your mind from your troubles. Play isn’t necessarily physical, but it is active. Your brain has to be diverted from your worries and redirected into an activity you consider playful – in the way a kid finds his diversions playful.
Sports: Join a league. A sports league that demands your presence once a week is a great way to forcibly separate your mind from the day. The physical activity serves the dual purpose of making you tired and allowing your body better rest.
Read: Reading a good book allows your mind to wander. So do movies and music.
Crafts: If you’re a lawyer, nose buried in books all day, maybe sewing would be a good escape. Do the opposite of what you do for a living.
We get mad at kids for not paying attention or being reckless, but that’s exactly what play is. It’s the release of responsibility. It’s hard to grow up. The things kids have to learn are a burden to them. Play alleviates the burden. Taking play away is tantamount to taking away school; without it, learning would stop and depression would rule. Adults, for the same reasons, need to play. Learning is tough at any age. Thus, take a lesson from your kids, and go play for a while.
Phoebe Running: One of my favorite episodes of Friends is exactly appropriate for today!