If you search “how to calm your nervous system” in Google you’ll find hundreds of options—and I’m very intentional about how I do this too. It’s something we talk about all the time at Lindywell. A favorite of mine, though, is play. It’s one of the most overlooked ways to stay well. It’s easy to …
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A favorite of mine, though, is play. It’s one of the most overlooked ways to stay well. It’s easy to play as a child, but as adults, it often becomes a lot more challenging and many of us don’t know how to play anymore.
What’s more, we don’t make the time for it. This is why I devoted an entire chapter in my book, Well to the Core, to play. What most of us need to do to actually make time for play. In our hyper-productive culture, the simple act of having fun usually takes a backseat to other more pragmatic commitments on the schedule.
This is probably one of the many reasons why our mental and emotional burnout continues to rise. In today’s culture, our nervous systems are totally out of balance, which means we’re anything but happy and calm.
Being in this state of burnout consistently can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also manifest physically in digestive issues, trouble with sleep, heart conditions and so much more.
This is why we need to play now, more than ever before. Play can help to:
- Calm the nervous system
- Relieve the impacts of stress
- Restore a feeling of balance
- Lift your overall mood.
Let’s explore the science behind the health benefits of play, and then talk about how to have more fun as an adult.
The Many Health Benefits of Play
Knowing how to calm your nervous system will impact every area of your life: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. That’s why play is such an important tool; it helps you create joy, calm, and balance in all of these areas.
Playfulness is associated with being in a flow state, which is when your brain is fully immersed in a certain activity. I feel this when I’m doing Pilates or doing Pilates or playing a game that requires all of my attention, like pickle ball or tennis—I’m completely immersed in that moment.
Being in this flow state can release dopamine, the happy hormone that activates pleasure and stimulates a feeling of reward. As the brain enters what is referred to as a “dopaminergic flow state,” your nervous system begins to calm down, reducing stress levels, increas