Wellbeing in play

Wellbeing in play

To introduce their upcoming webinar on Wednesday, we asked our speakers to share the context for their theme: what you can do to improve your mental health at work, rest & play.

We all know that work can cause stress, but have we ever thought about whether there’s another way to treat stress than simply relaxing? Laura Capell-Abra shares her thoughts on wellbeing and play.

What did you last do that was pure fun?  Where there was no ulterior motive, just simply to have fun?  When we are not working, we quite often feel like we should rest or that all we can do is rest.

We zone out in front of the TV or scroll mindlessly through updates on banana bread and friends dressing up as Joe Exotic.  Sometimes we need to switch off and reset but sometimes, we might also need a little unadulterated fun.

It could be anything, sharing a joke, playing with a dog, playing cards or going for a walk with no destination in mind.  We are told that playing with at least one other person increases the benefits. And if you are social distancing on your own, then no worries, there is a world of online quizzes that you can play with your friends and family on Zoom.

There are 5 main benefits of play to your wellbeing:

  1. Reduces stress
  2. Improves connection
  3. Improves emotional intelligence
  4. Improves collaboration
  5. Increases creativity and innovation

We connect play with children but not with adults and that’s a shame.  Every so often you’ll see a ping pong table in an office and whilst they might seem gimmicky, the intention of play is very positive.  The Google’s of this world that brought this kind of fun element into the workplace and did so based on the hard science. However, the gimmick has now taken over as many businesses didn’t see the problem they were trying to solve.  Forced fun is not fun!

Lynn Barnett, a professor of recreation, sports and tourism theorises that the reason we play is because it’s therapeutic — and there’s research to back that up, she says. “At work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction; and at home, playing together, like going to a movie or a concert, can enhance bonding and communication.”

To try and work out what play would be good for you, think back to what you enjoyed as a child and try to connect that to your life now. For example, a person who was very active as a child may be wise to engage in recreational sports as an adult.

Play is serious stuff

In 2006, the National Institute for Play in the States was founded by researchers who saw the importance of promoting the benefits of play to our wellbeing.

One researcher, Marian Diamond, in her Response of the Brain to Enrichment work describes how “enriched” (read playful) environments powerfully shape the cerebral cortex – the area of the brain where the highest cognitive processing takes place. She concludes “there are measurable benefits to enriching [making playful] an individual’s environment in whatever terms that individual perceives his immediate environment as enriched [i.e., discover practical ways for people to do whatever is playful, joyful to them].”

So, play is important but it’s also important to see it as a way of approaching work and life – not just finding a specific time to practice fun.  Try to build it into your everyday and tweak a workplace culture.

George Bernard Shaw said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

If you’d like to hear more about mental health and wellbeing in the events industry, join Laura and her co-presenter James Hitchen on Wednesday 29 April at 3pm UK time for a webinar on what you can do to improve your mental health at work, rest & play.

Register to attend here.

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Founder of creative-industry coaching company, No More Ifs Or Buts and workplace wellbeing company, Stress Matters, Laura Capell-Abra has worked in the marketing events industry for 17 years, having run businesses for the last 7 years. Using a mixture of personal stories, extracts from client experiences and industry insights, Laura inspires her audiences to build their emotional intelligence and their self-awareness using her own experience of burn out as a relatable lesson for others to learn from.

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