12/04/2015 09:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Get Playtime on Your To-Do List

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Reading back through my Huffington Post articles that mostly revolve around the subject of self improvement and evolution, I realize now how much of a know-it all I present myself to be. From tips on how to thrive through discomfort, to embracing failure and getting back out there, crafting your own type of talent and defying life's gatekeepers I must make for one annoying coach.

This is why I have decided to set the record straight here and make a suggestion that does not derive from a 22 year old superwoman-make-believe but from an individual striving to claim power over her identity in life's exhausting rhythms and the humbling circumstances she keeps throwing us into.


As I have maybe mentioned before, I adore journaling. I was- for some reason- brought up to believe that other people won't want to hang out with me if I constantly complain about my problems so talking to myself created a wonderful platform of expression, self-absorption and futile thought repetition.

Two years ago however, it only took one good re-read of my journal to realize that I was at the exact same spot then, that I was the day that I had started writing about these issues. I had placed myself into a vicious circle and was only reinforcing the situation, without taking action to ameliorate it.


Since re-reading proved itself to be such a revealing technique, I started organizing it: I would underline people's names, my and other's behaviors as well as events and situations linked with negative feelings in my life. For these clues, I would use a green marker. As a new year's resolution, I decided to eliminate my interactions with these people, to protest to other's toxic demeanors and to change my own approach and to prevent myself from attending social gatherings where I actually did not want to be in.

By making small changes like these, I felt powerful: I was still maturing but in my own terms and with less negativity. Even though I often find myself out of shape psychologically: I sometimes forget to diagnose my own words and fail to identify harmful interactions, I have a strong need to keep working on me so I picked the underlining practice from where I had left it and decided to use a yellow marker to find what made me happy.


A few months ago I was getting ready for a move and I was cleaning out my room when I found a journal I kept in elementary school. I was not at all prolific in the 4th grade but one single page of writing lead me to a new world of possibility.

I had started off complaining about homework, boy problems and wardrobe malfunctions and then my whining was suddenly paused by a sentence as simple as: I have to stop writing now because my homework is done, I have a few hours left in the day and I haven't played yet.


Easy as that, I had found an everyday ritual that took me away from everything that annoyed me and let me exist in a parallel universe of omnipotence and resilience.

As you may have noticed, I enjoy ending my blogs with what I call "realization-lists" so here is one for play-time:

1. You don't need to justify play-time: The older we get the more fretful we are about our time and our productive hours per day. I have many times found myself crafting excuses for every enjoyable thing I do in order to reassure my consciousness that I am not losing time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. I am putting puzzles together to train my brain, I play basketball to prepare my body for a half marathon, I watch comedies to get inspired and so on...


2. Reminiscing can be a useful guide on how to start: Entering Toys R' Us after so many years and pretending like you are buying something for your kid when it is actually for yourself can be an intimidating feeling. You may not know where to start, what feels less silly and what you will enjoy the most. I faced the exact same issue when I began and I resolved it by making a list (what a surprise!) of the games I enjoyed as a kid. This is why I bought roller blades, I visited a trampoline park and I put together a lego castle.


3. Playing as a kid is different than playing as an adult: After adding play-time in my to-do list, I kept finding game "placebos" that would convince me that my play-workout was done for the day: whether it was hiking in nature, playing tennis or reading books I would think that these would suffice to sate my need to zone out. If they did however, how could I not see a change in my life? I had been doing these things for years now so how can game time be additionally beneficial? In order to distinct adult games from kid games, I ask myself the following question: "Do I want to get something out of this game other than just relaxation and unjustifiable fun? Do I seek to evolve professionally, socially or even personally through this time?" If the answer is yes, then the fun is over and play-time has become another job. So I restart.

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