Saturday, May 21

Why we adults have to play more


Recently a friend invited me to spend a few days at his house with his family, which includes a boy of 7 and a girl of 5 who proceeded to make a (satisfied) slave of me for their games. When the little ones invited me to his room I was expecting a video game console and maybe reading stories, but the scene soon turned into a battle of tickles chasing us and rolling on the floor.

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Interestingly, I slept soundly that night and the next day my ability to concentrate at work was through the roof. It’s not surprising: play, and especially physical games where there is movement and contact with other people, is an essential part of brain development in children. The pilla-pilla, the blind man’s hen, the English hide-and-seek, the handkerchief, the hide-and-seek and many others have similar versions in all cultures. But it seems that games do not only benefit children.

The study of the effects of play has traditionally focused on children and their development, and only very recently on adults. The game is the main way we learn the most basic skills that will serve us for the rest of our lives:

  • Exploring objects and their properties.
  • Test how things work.
  • Practice and expand motor skills.
  • Take decisions.
  • Assume different roles.
  • Manage stress and frustration.

This last part is the most interesting part, since the capacity for emotional self-regulation, that is, being able to control our behavior when we experience strong emotions. Studies have proven that 40% of deaths have to do with lack of self-regulation, and that this inability to manage emotions is behind drug addictions, alcoholism, obesity and risky sexual behavior. On the contrary, people who know how to manage their emotions and control their behavior are better able to manage stress, face conflicts and achieve their goals in life; ultimately, be happier.

Play to learn to regulate ourselves

It has been found that in the first years of life self-regulation develops through playWhat is it a kind of simulator for life. But does this also apply to adults? Can we improve our capacity for self-regulation if we play? Experiments indicate yes.

What scientists are discovering is that gaming isn’t just for fun, it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being. In a study measured the interrelationship between the ludic character, that is, propensity to gamble, perceived stress, and stress management styles with nearly 900 students from three universities. The results revealed that the more playful individuals had lower levels of stress and knew how to handle it better. Their stress management strategies focused on managing the source of the stress, rather than avoidance or escapism.

Other swiss study with more than 250 people between the ages of 18 and 65, found that subjects who spent more time “doing fun things with other people” experienced greater life satisfaction and were in better physical shape, which could be as much a consequence as the origin of his love of physical games.

Play at work and at home

The benefits of gaming extend to the realm of work and productivity. In one study, it was found that members of a work team that participated in cooperative video games for 45 minutes later experienced a 20% increase in productivity in the group tasks that followed.

Not all adults play the same way. Researchers recently identified four types of playful behavior in adults – those who enjoy actively fooling around with friends, colleagues, relatives and acquaintances; those who are just light-hearted and don’t care about the future consequences of their behavior; those who play with thoughts and ideas and enjoy word games; and finally the capricious, who show interest in strange and unusual things and amuse themselves fascinated by small everyday things.

Being adults who know how to play games also makes us more attractive to potential romantic partners. When asking in a survey the personality traits they found most attractive in one pair, “having a good sense of humor” was first for men and second for women, “knowing how to have fun” was third for both, and “being playful” appeared in fifth and fourth place, respectively.

If you have children around, getting down on the floor and playing with them will not only help their brain, but yours as well. If there are no children around, find someone to play with.

* Darío Pescador is editor and director of the quo magazine and author of the book your best self Posted by Oberon.

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