“The opposite of play is not work… it’s depression.” Stuart Brown, play researcher.
We often think of play as the business of childhood. However, playfulness is not only essential for normal development (in many species, including humans), it is also an adult expression that allows for joy, creativity, bonding, problem solving, inner-healing and more.
We live in a society, where recognition of the power of play for adults is experiencing a resurgence, after a couple of centuries of decline. Thankfully, our increasing desire to listen to what science can tell us about this world and our place within it, has allowed the truth about play to re-surface.
The power of play
Play is powerful, especially when we come to understand it as a process, rather than an activity. Playfulness is a way of being, the principles of which have been beautifully explored in the concept of SuperBetter.
While SuperBetter came out of the computer gaming industry and mindset, it’s core principles can be applied to any area of challenge in real life.
We set ourselves the challenge, then create a series of small quests, the completion of which, will move us in baby step towards overcoming the challenge. But we aren’t alone, and like any great video game, we can seek out allies to support us in our quests. These are people we can share our progress with and who will support us and cheer us on.
We become the hero of our own journey, and each quest makes us stronger, building resilience that is either physical, mental, emotional or social. It might help you to give yourself a fantasy character (avatar), or to identify with a character from a book, film or video game.
Any quest wouldn’t be complete without baddies and power-ups. Baddies are the specific things we fight daily, as we move towards overcoming our challenge. They could be attitudes (like procrastination), self-talk (like “you never finish anything”), practical issues (like clutter), or physical limitations (like pain). They could even be someone else’s words (“you’ll never…”)
Power ups are the positive boosters that make us instantly more able to fight a good fight. They can be anything that increases positivity and well-being. Examples are: breathing exercises, walking, appreciating nature, music, connecting with a friend, a hug, a physical exercise, a simple mental challenge, smelling something delicious, eating a healthy snack, exposure to sunshine, self-care, stretching or watching an inspiring clip on YouTube.
The most important aspect of a power up, after it’s ability to improve well-being, is that it needs to be quick and easy. A power up should generally only last a minute or two.
The SuperBetter “programme” of gamefulness suggests that each day you try to activate at least 3 power ups, fight one baddie and complete 3 small quests (from your challenge to-do list). Seek out your allies for encouragement and support and work towards epic wins on your journey towards completing your challenge.
The science behind the success of this kind of real life game play is convincing. Play is indeed powerful – life changing – and SuperBetter helps us to harness the power of play in overcoming our real life challenges.