I never realized until now how important play is to our health and wellbeing. This is even more true for those who suffer from multiple health challenges and clinical depression, like Therese Borchard. Therese Borchard, is a mental health writer, activist, and a regular guest on national radio and television programs. She authored Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and is also a Special Advisor to the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center. Her journey has taken her through not just coping with deep depression, physical exhaustion, a myriad of diagnoses, and continuous death thoughts. She also achieved a greater purpose beyond the depths of depression. And play has become a central theme in her life as well.
PURPOSE & PLAY
Borchard sums up her greater purpose in her story, Room for Misery and Room for Joy: My Story. “From a place of deep pain within me, I was offering to God my entire life—every anxious breath, every distorted thought, every word and every action, every minute of every day, as fodder for someone else’s healing, as some sort of blessing for another, because that is the only way I knew how to live with the thoughts. The way I saw it, my only purpose here was to relieve someone else of the kind of pain I feel on a regular basis.”
Borchard personally knows what Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play is talking about. “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression. And I think if you think about life without play — no humor, no flirtation, no movies, no games, no fantasy, and, and, and. Try to imagine a culture or a life, adult or otherwise, without play. And the thing that’s so unique about our species is that we’re really designed to play through our whole lifetime.”
From her blog article, Why You Shouldn’t Stop Playing, Borchard personally declared “I’m beginning to think that playing can even access parts of our brain that are blocked to mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.” She also believes play fosters creativity. According to Dr. Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, “There has been a lot of research done on creativity and playfulness . . . Playfulness promotes creativity and improves feelings at work . . . Whether it be trying to adopt a more playful attitude at the office, or leaving your desk to take a short bike ride, play is important to the creative process. . .”
PLAY ATTITUDE & BENEFITS
Play can be very physical or more meditative. It can include others or being alone. Whatever the activity, Borchard feels “. . . it’s important to take on a playful attitude as we wash the dishes, fold the laundry, and attend work meetings. With a little creativity, we can find a way of carrying out our responsibilities in ways that we enjoy.”
Beyond creativity, the benefits of play and playfulness include nurturing collaboration, cooperation, and helps us more fully be “in the moment.” Play and playfulness improves brain function, relationships and connection to others, mood, and can even heal emotional wounds.
According to the National Institute of Play, “Play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these play by-products are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.”
Play can also generate optimism, laughter, and joy that surprises you. Laughter shares the above benefits of play. Laughter’s essential role can build strong, healthy relationships that bring people closer together, create a positive bond, and resolve conflict and disagreements. With next month’s lifeskill, Reflection, let’s find out how laughter brightens our lives.