Playing for Personal Growth

Playing is one of the first ways we engage in learning and personal growth. Infants and toddlers allow their curiosity to abound, which results in interacting in fun ways with their environment and others. From there, they learn how the world works and how to be in the world. 

Over time, the skill of playing slowly fades and is replaced with other forms of learning. However, this skill can still prove to be useful to you throughout the lifespan. 

The general mechanics of play are simple. You interact with the environment, others, and/or your imagination and you are rewarded with fun and happiness. Of note, you are more likely to repeat a behavior when you are rewarded for doing that behavior. This principle especially comes in handy when you work on your mental health.

self-care best selves

Oftentimes, it is hard to make positive changes because you come into therapy already depleted. One of the first things I talk with clients about is self-care. Play is absolutely a form of self-care.  You cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Play also helps rewire the brain.

When you are struggling, you tend to focus on those struggles. The more you think a thought, the stronger that neuronal network becomes. Play helps you disengage from the maladaptive thoughts and fosters new, rewarding neuronal networks. This is a form of personal growth.

Additionally, play can help you “try on” alternatives to situations. You can act out scenarios through games and your imagination to find the best course of action. This is true with finding the right coping skills too. You can play with different skills, make them your own, and determine what works for you!

What is your favorite way to play? Getting lost in a daydream? Spending a couple of hours playing video games? Playing board games with friends? Dressing up as your favorite characters? 

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to play. And perhaps you’ll discover some personal growth along the way. 

If you are a gamer, check out Guardians Mental Health for some great mental health and gaming resources. 

We’re psychotherapists in Weschester, NY.

Visit our homepage at: www.couragepsych.com