Pillow fight

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope that you had some great time off with family and friends. As we get back into the swing of work and plug away at our New Years resolutions, we are going to discuss a counterintuitive topic: Rest and Play. Incase you are just tuning in, we have been covering Brene Brown’s 10 guideposts for wholehearted living. In setting the premise for this series, we had discussed the development of secure attachments in our relationships, and how learning to live a wholehearted life can lead us towards security, connection, and intimacy. This week we are focusing on guidepost seven “Cultivating Rest and Play: Letting go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth.”

Generally speaking when we hear the word play we think of children. Children are always engaged in play; turning everyday objects into an exciting new fort or hide out, using their hairbrush as a microphone (although I know some of us adults still do this!), or cooking something imaginary up in their play kitchen. The reality is that play goes beyond the imaginative play we see with children. In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown introduces Dr. Stuart Brown; a psychiatrist and the founder of the National Institute for Play, who suggests that there are seven patterns of play that are present throughout all stages of life. In the broader sense, play is defined as engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. According to Dr. Stuart Brown, there are seven properties that describe play: it is apparently purposeless, voluntary, there is an inherent attraction to it, while doing it there is freedom from time, it diminishes the consciousness of self, it has improvisational potential (open, not ridged), and has a continuation desire which makes you want to do it more. Play isn’t just about imagination; it is about rest and rejuvenation. It shapes our brain, fosters joy, creativity and innovation, and is essential to our health.

According to Brene Brown, the main barrier to adults in North America being able to rest and play is that exhaustion has become a status symbol and productivity has become a symbol of self worth. This belief leads us to even viewing sleep as a waste of time and leaves us sleep deprived and prone to disease and depression. We need to stop the madness! Personally, I am a very driven and motivated person and I often feel the need to always be doing something. It is hard to sit and relax when there are things I know that I could and should be doing. But I have learned that if I do not allow time for play and rest, I overload myself, get overwhelmed and my “kill switch” goes off. For those who don’t know a kill switch is, it’s an emergency switch that is meant to shut something down completely and as quickly as possible abort the operation. We all have our limit, our own personal kill switch that will trigger unless taken care of. This triggering can lead into avoidance behaviours such as escaping into Netflix for days on end; it can lead to depression, anxiety and a sense of dissatisfaction. To rest and play does not mean that you are lazy, weak or unproductive; it means that you value your health, want to take care of yourself and experience the present.

Brene Brown shares a lesson she learned very quickly; you should not Google the words “adult play” because you will be closing pornography pop-ups so fast it will be like playing whac-a-mole (p 100). This is a priceless lesson and to save you from having to face a pop-up whirlwind, here are some practical suggestions to cultivate play and rest in your own life.

Cultivating play involves being actively engaged.

Many people feel that TV and movies are a form of rest; the problem with watching TV is that it is passive. It can also be used to numb or avoid because it helps us to escape reality. Play and true rejuvenating rest requires that we get actively engaged. Personally, play for me involves play fighting and goofing around; it involves silly conversation and humour. Enjoyable playful activities are subjective; have a discussion with your partner and find something playful that you can share together.

Learn how to put your phone/laptop away.

Many things that we do with our spouses, children and friends could be playful and engaging if we could put away our phones. When we have our phones on us 24/7 and are always tied to work, social media… etc, we are taking a passive stance in our lives and are missing out on the present moment. Challenge yourself to put your phone down and get engaged in conversations and activities that are happening right under your nose.

See the value and return of play.

For those of you who are very driven and feel that play is a waste of time, it is important to see the bigger picture. In order for you to sustain a long career, business or even a fast paced, productive goal oriented life, you have to know and listen to your body. Pushing yourself to the point of a “Kill Switch” shut down is preventable. Play helps to preserve and refuel what you need in order to keep your creativity and productivity flowing.

Lastly, bringing play into our relationships can really help to enhance our connection and bring us closer to our partner. You can introduce play through joint hobbies, being silly, using humor or my favourite play fighting.  Instead of adding another resolution to the productivity list, makes time for play and rest. It has a positive effect on mood, satisfaction and overall sense of enjoyment.

I would love if you would share ways that you have learned to integrate play into your life and your relationship, and join me next week as we cover guidepost 8 “Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle.”


Brown, B. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are. Centre City: MN, Hazelden