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4 Ways To Become More Playful

Written by: Christina Tucciarone, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Do you ever catch yourself white-knuckling your to-do list and wondering why everything feels so serious?


Why life is starting to feel mechanical, stagnant, and uninspiring?


Where your creativity and sense of humor went?


I certainly have.

As a recovering over-achiever who learned that social praise came from getting A’s and beefing my resume, I’ve been on a voyage to reclaim my spark for life ever since connecting to my inner child years ago. When I first conversed with her, the message was clear: “You’ve GOT to stop being so darn SERIOUS!” (Delivered with arms-crossed exacerbation and an eye roll for emphasis.) This younger version of me didn’t care about high-achieving and impressing anyone. All she wanted was for me to take off my shoes, get outside, and live a little already. So, I sheepishly listened because deep down I knew she was onto something.


Over the last six years, I began following my curiosities and discovered what my unique flavor of playfulness looked like, despite the little inner voices saying, “play isn’t productive.” Turns out, becoming a more playful person ended up being the most productive and fulfilling thing I would do in my adult life, and in the lives of my clients.


Curious?


Let’s explore!


What are the benefits of being more playful?


Let us back up for a moment. When you’re little, your brain is developmentally wired to play...not just because it’s fun, but because the literal biological function of play is making connections mentally and socially. The more connections our brains can make, the less likely we are to get stuck in stress spirals too. Play helps us process and “off-load” stress by allowing us to see different perspectives instead of getting stuck with our noses against a wall.


Play also helps us explore and nurture our capacity for resilience, healthy communication, and creativity. In fact, George Land observed in one longitudinal study that many children before the age of 5 score at the “Genius Level” on creativity tests because their brains are primed for seeing possibilities and making new connections due to play. You can watch him sharing more about this here.


All in all, play is nature’s way of helping us expand our capacity to grow, ease an over-worked brain, and create sensations of purpose, creativity, and connection in our bodies. Do you want to know what it feels like to flirt with life? Practice being in a state of play.


Myths of Play

Without play sprinkled throughout our days, it’s easy to feel lethargic, numb, or bored with life. One of my favorite quotes from play researcher Dr. Stuart Brown is, “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.”

But if play is so great, why don’t we always put it on our plate? Now that is a GREAT question. (I’m so glad you asked.)


Let’s explore a few of the popular misconceptions of play, and just notice if you hold any of these in your awareness:

  • Play must involve a game or a sport

  • Play must be done with others

  • Play must feel silly or humorous

  • You must schedule play as an activity separate from work

  • Play must be earned. It’s something that comes AFTER hard work, and as such, work and play exist in two separate boxes. Think, “work hard, play hard.”

  • Play is a child’s game that’s either immature, self-indulgent or leads to us not being taken seriously.

  • Play is not practical or productive. It takes AWAY from our goals and hard work.

Does any of these feel familiar? That’s ok! We live in a culture that struggles with the non-linear elements of play. The beautiful thing is you can teach yourself to become playful, even if you struggle with the concept.


Now Let’s Explore What Play Actually Is


Play is not about what we’re doing or for how long, as much as it is HOW we’re doing it and what we’re FEELING during and after. Play is a state of being characterized by curiosity, presence, improvisation, and creativity. It’s an optimal, open state very similar to what’s known as the “flow state,” where the mind doesn’t feel too challenged but is interested enough to stay focused on the present moment.


When you’re engaging in activities that evoke a state of Play, you’ll notice some of these experiences:

  • A sense of ignited imagination and creativity

  • Presence and full focus (You’ll be much less concerned with the time or how people perceive you)

  • Enhanced curiosity and potential for improvisation and novelty

  • A sense of pleasure or an overall elevated mood

  • Afterward, there’s often a desire to engage in whatever you were doing again.

The expression of a playful state can look big or subtle. But only you will know if you’re experiencing it, so it’s important to remember that even if someone looks like they’re playing because they’re engaged in a game or a sport, they may not be in a state of play. Often in games or sports, the stakes are high, and this can induce stress for the players, which takes them out of a play state. Vice versa, someone who looks bored or isn’t “doing” much may be very engrossed in an internal state of play through their imagination.


So how can we become more playful in our lives?


By nurturing our capacity to experience the states of play: Curiosity, open-mindedness, improvisation, and present-moment exploration.


4 Ways to Become a More Playful Person

1. Become a Play Detective


Want to know a secret?


Because many people associate play with frivolity, silliness, or childishness, it can be easy to overlook how you’re already playing in life, according to the definition of play above. The major takeaway here is, that the more you see yourself as a playful person, the more your play muscle will strengthen and your inclination to play will grow. This is a ripple effect of something called confirmation bias, which is just a fancy way to say humans have an innate tendency to seek and see information that confirms their current beliefs. So, to see ourselves as playful we must gather evidence that will strengthen our belief in this.


Often, we’re so busy comparing ourselves to what we think play SHOULD look like or what OTHER people are doing that we miss all the ways we’re already playing in our lives. Play researcher Dr. Stuart Brown shares about 8 different Play Personalities that he’s observed over years of studying people in play states. These play personalities are the way that we most naturally experience and prefer to engage in a state of play. When you know your primary play personalities, it can clue to into the types of activities that are more likely to evoke a state of play within you, and the ways in which you already play! You can explore them here.


While people tend to have a few dominant types of play, we engage and dip into other styles of play personalities from time to time too. Knowing your dominant play personalities can feel validating, and it’s also fun to share and explore with friends or partners to see where you connect across the different styles of play.


Let’s look at just SOME of the ways you might already engage with the energy of play. See if you can spot one or more activities that generate a sense of presence, curiosity, connection, and pleasure for you. Remember, it’s less about the activity you’re engaged in, and more about the feeling state you’re in. Once there is pressure or high stakes involved, an activity can lose its playful element.

  1. Experimenting in the kitchen by trying new recipes or making old favorites

  2. Accessorizing yourself through dress, hair, and makeup

  3. Daydreaming

  4. Planning a special event

  5. Decorating or rearranging your space

  6. Doodling, drawing, or coloring

  7. Taking things apart and putting them back together

  8. Exploring new or familiar places

  9. Exercise and joyful movement

  10. Flirting with current or potential partners

  11. Gardening

  12. Home improvement projects

  13. Writing poetry, stories, or journaling

  14. Engaging with pets or young children

  15. Listening to your favorite or new music

  16. Dancing and grooving along

  17. Playing an instrument or creating your own music

  18. Reading a book or watching a movie

  19. Game nights with friends or family

  20. Role play and dramatizing

  21. Doing hands-on research on a subject that fascinates you

  22. Photography, including selfies

  23. Bathroom concerts with your toothbrush

  24. Studying or collecting objects that evoke wonder and fascination

So, I invite you to take some time to reflect on:


Where are you already nurturing your play style in life?


2. Become a Pattern Interrupter


One of the pillars of play is the possibility for novelty and a new perspective. When we start to feel like we’re living on autopilot, that’s our cue to change things up. I don’t mean take a long vacation where play and work stay in separate boxes. I mean, find ways to playful interrupt the way you usually do things in your day-to-day. This could be as simple as dancing your way to the bathroom in the morning instead of dragging your feet or talking to yourself out loud instead of spinning thoughts around in your head. Maybe you take a different route to work, sit in a different chair, eat at a new restaurant, and order a new food dish. Perhaps you pause to explore something in nature that catches your eye on a walk or tilt your head while lying on the couch and pretend the floor is the ceiling. Follow your curiosities! In those moments when your inner child nudges you to linger with something a little longer or look at it from a different angle, lean in. Gently stretch your perspective and engage with novelty by breaking your routines and interrupting the pattern of autopilot.


3. Get WEIRD


One of my favorite ways to generate a state of playfulness is to invoke my inner weirdo. She loves to take wild-angled selfies from the under the table and send them to clients or break out into silly character voices when telling a story. In the beginning, when I was still rediscovering my sense of humor, I’d pattern-interrupt tension in my body by wiggling, making animal noises, or acting out my inner perfectionist in an evil villain voice. I invite you to try it now. Take a deep breath and give me your best crow “Ca-CAW!” (Bonus points if you’re in public). Sound and feel ridiculous? Fantastic. That’s the POINT. It’s easy to become so rigid and predictable that we become bored with life and ourselves. Getting weird is often just the medicine we need to snap out of autopilot and get reacquainted with the catharsis of a good chuckle. Laughter floods our brain with feel-good neurotransmitters (hello serotonin!) and studies have shown that employers are more likely to hire and promote people with a sense of humor. If making random weird noises is too much of an edge for you, then I invite you to start with weird faces. Take yourself out on a date with the mirror, and play a game called, “How weird can I look?” where you channel your inner Jim Carrey. The weirder, the better! If you’re feeling brave, say something – ANYTHING, to yourself in a silly character voice while making weird faces. This quirky practice invokes the play elements of improvisation and new perspective and directly interrupts any patterns of perfectionism we hold around our appearance. I dare you not to laugh at yourself in the process.


4. Engage your Senses


Another key element of the play state is Presence. Turns out, our senses are the perfect portals to the present moment. When we’re kids, we’re constantly exploring the world with them, putting things in our mouths, touching EVERYTHING, and staring in wide-eyed wonder most of the time. While I would NOT recommend touching or tasting everything that strikes your fancy now (might get you into trouble), I would like to invite you to reignite your wonder-filled presence through a personalized sensory prescription list. What’s that? Simply put, it’s a menu of sensory stimuli that evokes a sense of calm, curiosity, and presence within you.


To create it, start by listing out the senses you have access to, like touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. If you don’t have access to some of these senses, worry not! You only need access to at least one to get started. Next to each available sense you have, start getting curious about the stimulus you enjoy. For example, I find that I come into deep presence when I hear crickets and wind chimes, smell something citrusy, taste Jasmin tea, gently rock my body, and see anything iridescent. My list for each of my available sense is much longer though, and I invite you to really take some time and think about all the different sensory stimulus that brings you back to a state of calm and wonder in your body.


The intention is to create a list that you can start intentionally incorporating into your daily life. For example, if you know that the color green makes you feel calm, perhaps you accessorize, decorate, or engage with it more throughout the day by becoming a color detective. Decide that today you’ll look for more of that shade of green and take a moment to linger and appreciate it when you find it. If you know that 80’s music really gets you moving in your body, create a playlist and pattern to interrupt your day by playing it while you’re brushing your teeth in the morning or getting ready for a work meeting. Intentionally engaging with our sensory prescription list trains us to come into presence with our body more and more, which primes us to be more playful. As you casually bring more intentional sound, sight, scent, or texture into your days, you’ll notice that your sense of aliveness and creativity may even increase too!


In closing, it feels important to note that what we were praised for as a child is most often where we attached our worth and value. For many of us, pleasure and play were not consistently patterned with praise. Our caregivers often projected their priorities onto us from being raised in a heavily industrialized society where social compliance and economic predictability is prioritized over mental health and play. Many of us were also parentified or took on a caregiver role in our homes. If you were the “responsible one” in your family, play may not have been a priority or even an option. For many, play doesn’t even feel safe because our brains have wired it with sensations of rejection or lack of purpose. So, slowing down, being in flow states, and experiencing pleasure through play can trigger our fear of death at an unconscious level. When starting to incorporate these ways to play that I’ve shared, it helps to continuously celebrate the child inside for every little way that we lean into play. Slow and steady is what builds this muscle. It took me years to really embody a playful state in a way that feels natural.


If you desire deeper support with unraveling any resistance you hold in your body to play, I offer private Inner Child Alchemy sessions. In these 90-minute sessions, we reawaken your curiosity, courage, playfulness, and intuition. You'll receive an intuitive mix of deep energy clearing, guided activations, playful exercises, and coaching that will leave you invigorated, inspired and ready to step deeper into your most confident, playful, embodied self.

Here's what past clients have shared about these sessions:

"Within just the first 20 minutes of the session with Chrissy, I made more strides and felt more spaciousness within myself than all the hours of other sessions I've invested in! ‒ Nicole (Mother, Massage Therapist)

"I highly recommend Chrissy. I've had horrible nervous system trauma responses that have been out of control my whole life. I’ve felt such a deep calm within after only one session with her. I’m blown away with her work and feel like a new person."Beth (Spiral Practitioner and Akashic Records Reader)

"The upside of having yourself a Chrissy is that she is the combination of an energy alchemist, a therapist, a standup comedian, an endless invitation for play, and an absolute Jedi master at holding the wide range of rainbow that comes forth from your humanness. The safety and care within her sessions are unmatched compared to anyone I’ve worked with thus far. She's helped me make working with the anxious parts of myself a game instead of something to feel shame over.” – Cait (Mother, Psychic)

For readers of Brainz magazine, I’m offering a special one-time discount of 25% off, which you can access here.


In respect and play,

Chrissy Marie


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

 

Christina Tucciarone, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Chrissy Marie is a trauma-informed Embodiment Practitioner, Inner Child Liberator, Breathwork Facilitator, founder of the Art of Aliveness Podcast, and lover of crude humor and steering wheel dance parties. She's spent the last decade studying the art and science of behavior change, creativity, energy medicine, and how to calm your nervous system. Chrissy specializes in helping high-achieving practitioners slow down, grow up their inner people-pleaser, take themselves way less seriously, and increase their productivity and fulfillment by making Play and Simplicity a Priority. Her clients say they're drawn to her for her authenticity and naturalness, and stay with her because they unlock their own.

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