06/02/2010 01:49 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Unplug & Recharge: The Power of Play

When I think about recharging, I have reduced my options to the usual suspects: work out, do a yoga class, read, stretch, take a walk, take a bath with lots of salt and essential oils. Working out and meditating have become as essential as food for our daily well being. And while they do support us in great ways, I would like us to consider that at the heart of unplugging and recharging is the power of play. Playing and having fun is completely underrated, and not encouraged in our driven, 24/7 plugged-in way of being.

It isn't even clear whether we are playing more or less than we used to. If we're playing more, it doesn't feel like it. Just in the past 30 years, there has been a cultural shift reemphasizing work and getting ahead. "We still play, but much of it seems to lack a playful quality," observes anthropologist Garry Chick, Ph.D., of Penn State University. "Playfulness has been replaced by aggressiveness and the feeling that more needs to be crammed into less time."

We use our leisure time not necessarily to play but in performance of various sorts of work, whether its time at the health spa or artists retreats.

Playing can also be seen as indulgence however it is crucial to mental creativity, health and happiness. Play lifts stress from us, refreshes us and recharges us. It restores our optimism. It renews our ability to accomplish the work of the world -- these are some of the amazing "results" of play. There is evidence that is does even more. Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt and expand, evolve.

Play also allows us to be in the moment like when you love something and are enjoying it so much that you lose all sense of time -- that is the space of play, that lightness of being. Thinking of the word, play conjures those thoughts, feelings of joy, ease, laughter -- it can even make you giggle just to think about it or watch play. It also brings to mind the feeling of playfulness and how playful people are the most fun to be around. Playmates. Think about the playmates in your life, those people you want to call to go "play." We still have a deep desire for this kind of experience.

Like art, play is that quintessential experience that is almost impossible to define -- because it encompasses infinite variability -- but which we all recognize when we see, or experience. What is play for you?

As a business and life coach for the past 13 years consulting/coaching CEOs, entrepreneurs and their teams, I encourage my clients to incorporate more play in to their lives which positively effects their work. Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist, influential thinker and founder of analytical psychology suggested that if you had a problem that was frustrating you or that you could not solve, spend some time in what he called the "sand box" -- go play and through this play, whatever that is for someone, great solutions and ideas arise organically. Play leads to invention.

In the classic book, Artist Way by Julia Cameron, she recommends play dates that inspire you and this inspiration is the source for new ideas, feeling "recharged" in new ways. This is also echoed in one of my favorite books, Uncommon Genius by Denise Shekerjian. She interviewed 40 MacArthur Award Winners on what they thought the essence of creativity was. Genius is fostered by play and cross-pollination.

The "Imagination Playground" created by David Rockwell, made of sand, water and loose parts, is revolutionary in the power of play for children, allowing them to truly unplug and invent. A wonderful example of more extreme play (like extreme sports!), playing more than 30 minutes a day is the interesting story of Graphic Designer Stefan Sagmeister who did a Ted talk about the power of time off. Every seven years, he closes his New York studio for a year long sabbatical to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and shows the innovative projects inspired by his time. He said that his job became a calling again -- it was enjoyable, over the long term is was financially successful and everything that was designed in the seven years following his first sabbatical, had originated in that year.

So I am having fun playing, including most recently doing things like an S Factor Class, the original and most popular pole dancing workout designed by a woman for women (created by Sheila Kelley who truly knows how to play), painting with all my art supplies on my living room floor, learning to play the piano again, swinging on the swings with my kids and seeing the "Picasso Exhibit" which I loved. Enjoy the benefits of the power of play, some of which you may not have discovered yet.

Have fun!

Denise Spatafora