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The Need for Play

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Emotional Health related image Photo: Getty Images

Most of us need to work; it's a simple fact of life. Even those among us who can afford not to often do; either in day jobs which bring home enough to help pad the savings or in volunteer capacities. We need to work to support ourselves and our families and, emotionally, we need to work because we need to feel useful, productive, and part of the fabric of society.

Study after study has been done to prove that once people are laid off, unemployment can become so psychologically debilitating that maintaining your core belief in your own inherent value is just as challenging as finding another job.

But what do we know, really, about the intense need for play?

We often view playing as frivolous, fun, but unnecessary. We tell our children "go play" as if they are silly and we are serious and important.

But playing, as Maria Montessori pointed out so many years ago and what her philosophy is founded on, is the work of children. Playing is how they figure out who they are, develop their skills, interests and abilities, learn to cooperate and negotiate with other children, learn to pace themselves.

Adults, too, need play in their lives. Work-life balance is a real need for people; we can't work 24 hours a day and still retain a sense of peace, stability or emotional health. A wonderful article about this can be found here: http://firstthings.org/page/media/the-family-column/the-importance-of-play-for-adults

What's more, playing can help you regain your sense of perspective, putting the old, stressful patterns back where they belong: in one aspect of yourself and your psyche and not dominating your entire being.

It's also a gift to others in your life, especially family members and children, to model an ability to play, to laugh, to let go and to use your imagination.
If we're always stressed and worried, upset and fretting, tired and overwhelmed, how do we communicate the joy of life or a capacity for love and light, happiness and freedom to those around us?

Play rejuvenates and restores us. Letting workers have breaks and time for family actually makes them more productive, according to many employers.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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