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  • Writer's pictureDr. Elena Duong

Importance of Play

Have you heard of self-care? Self-care is often used to broadly describe things you can do to care for yourself. Self-care can encompass different areas of your life, including emotional, personal, physical, psychological, professional, and spiritual health. The self-care wheel has excellent examples of each area.

As a society, we view overwork and exhaustion as achievements when they are actually unhealthy ways to move through the world. There is stigma on self-care and rest since it is not 'productive.' Let's think for a moment. Who does this view benefit? (Spoiler Alert: Corporations)

What gets even less attention is play, which is an incredibly important part of self-care. On the wheel, play is listed under spiritual health. Play can honestly go under more than one area of self-care. So, what is play?

Researcher Brene Brown defines play as: time spent without purpose, time you don't want to end, and a loss of self-consciousness. She found those who prioritized play and rest actually were more productive than their overworked counterparts. It has been shown play helps with stress and increases joy since there is a loss of self-consciousness in a state of flow. Flow is a state of consciousness, where a person is so absorbed in their activity that nothing else matters (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). In Dr. Brown's review of the research, she also noted life without play as being associated with more depression and aggression (2012).

Play can appear differently depending on each person since not everyone enjoys the same things. Dr. Brene Brown recommends finding activities that bring you joy and rest. In addition, it is even better if you can engage in those activities with loved ones.

If you are having trouble thinking about how to play, you can always start small. You can begin by making a list of things you like doing and reflecting on if you have done those things recently.

Below are examples of play:

  • Creating with different mediums (e.g., beading, painting, designing, etc.)

  • Engaging in a sport

  • Going to the gym

  • Learning a new language

  • Organizing things

  • Playing an instrument

  • Reading or rereading a book

  • Watching movies or shows

It is never too late to invest in yourself, including in rest and play. Your value as a human being is not defined by your work output. You get to decide your values. You as a human being is enough. Remember to be gentle with yourself in this process since it likely involves unlearning some core societal values, which may not be helpful to you anymore.

If you are interested in finding mental health support in work-life balance, feel free to contact us.

Stay tuned. The next topic is TBA.


Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.

Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.


Brown, B. (2012). The power of vulnerability: teachings on authenticity, connection, & courage. Sounds True.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row.

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