Monday, March 30, 2015
While driving home from the grocery recently, I happened to catch "Press Play," a TED Radio Hour broadcast on the importance of play. It was such an interesting program that I ended up taking my groceries for another couple of spins around the block so that I wouldn't miss a segment!
One interview was with researcher Dr. Stuart Brown, who described his early work with (and about) criminals, including at least one mass murderer. While no single factor accounted for behavior, he noticed that in some of the worst histories, there was a distinct lack of opportunities for childhood imagination and healthy play. He brought this forward into research with the general population, with observations about the role of play throughout life, even for persons with deep dementia. He and other researchers on the program were convincing, to wit, that play, involving pure fun and engagement with others, stimulates the brain in important ways.
Listening to the program's examples of the importance of "fun" for overall health and productivity, it occurred to me that some of the people I most associate with successful aging are those who have continued to be "playful" throughout their adult years. They play team sports and games, take regular vacations, have hobbies that get them out in the public. It's not all about work (even in the U.S.) .... right? Although the program implied that the right job may also be important, with the observation that the opposite of "play" is not "work," but "depression."
So, the message: it is time to get serious about play. For more, here's a link to a TED Talk video (and transcript) with Dr. Brown. I'm not sure I buy his conclusions about the polar bear and the husky, but they do bring to mind one of my favorite "playful" commercials, the one with the "Friends Furever" animal buddies, and the great Roger Miller tune as soundtrack.