Feature Article: “You Must Find Time to Play”

Excerpted from Find More Time: How to Get Things Done at Home, Organized Your Life, and Feel Great About it.

Did you know that having an active social life as an adult may help you prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, as you get older? We’ve always known that mental activity is good for the brain, but a new study from the University of Florida School of Aging Studies shows that the brain loves leisure. In fact, researchers found a 38 percent less risk of dementia in adults having the highest level of leisure activity. In the study, researchers analyzed data from the Swedish Twins Registry, which tracks same-gender twins who were born between 1886 and 1925 and followed them through the 1990s. Specifically, researchers compared 107 twin pairs in which one twin was diagnosed with some type of mental impairment and the other was not. Even when factors such as education level were taken into account, greater involvement in leisure activity—social visits, reading, and vacations—was shown to reduce the risk of dementia. All work and no play will make Jack’s brain a dull thing indeed. 

It’s not enough to sit on the sidelines and watch others play. YOU have to be personally involved in activities. Take a class, meet a friend, or take a tour. Get involved in church activities, intramural sports, service clubs, and charitable organizations. Remember, you’re working to live, not living to work.

Here are a few ways you can pamper yourself:

Revisit your childhood. For years, I took for granted living on the Air Force Academy in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains of Colorado Springs. I had no idea that I was living what many would consider an idyllic, sheltered life. On many occasions, I would open the curtains in my bedroom to stare into the big brown eyes of a deer. We would spend hours in the woods behind our house, playing Indians, building forts, and just lying in the sun. To this day, when I need to refresh and reconnect with myself, I take a long walk around a trail in the open space near our home so I can reconnect with nature and the rustling wild grasses. 

Reconnect with your childhood. What did you used to love to do? Work with clay? Paint? Draw? I used to spend hours playing the piano and learning new music. Today, finding a few spare minutes to plink out a few tunes is a delicious treat. I also used to spend hour upon hour reading the Little House on the Prairie series as well as countless Nancy Drew and Black Beauty novels. Especially around the holidays, sitting down to relax with a good book brings back warm memories of childhood: sometimes I can almost see a twinkling Christmas tree and smell spicy Wassail in the air. Do the things you loved to do as a child and cherish yourself as an adult.

Schedule a day of pampering. You need time to yourself to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate. Each month, I block a day out of my calendar and have a Pamper Laura day. I visit my chiropractor first, so I’m nice and limber; then I get a massage; then I go to the nail salon for a manicure/pedicure. And, no, I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. I work hard, and so do you. You deserve some personal attention! Do what you love, whether it’s a manicure or a bike ride or round of golf. The money invested is well worth the decreased stress level you will experience. 

Don’t waste alone time. If for some odd reason, I find myself alone in our house, besides shouting “Whoo-hoo!” in my head, I resist the urge to do something “productive.” Funny as it seems coming from me, this is NOT the time to throw in a load of laundry or tidy up the house. Instead, I do something I can’t do when the kids or my husband are home. I ask, “Can I do this activity when James is around?” If the answer is yes, I find something else creative to do. For example, I like getting out the photographs I’ve been stacking for the last few months and putting them into their file boxes. Praying and meditating are good options for me. I also like calling a friend, so I can have a decent conversation for once without a child’s interrupting chatter.

Get rid of the guilt. I find that women, especially, have been programmed to sacrifice everything in the name of what’s good and right for everyone else. If there’s anything left over, they get the scraps. I find that men are much better at saying, “I need to relax!” John would say, “I’m playing a round of golf with Joe this afternoon” whereas my girlfriend would say, “I’d really like to go get a pedicure tomorrow, but I should take Jimmy shopping for school clothes.” 

One thing I know for sure is that you can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t take care of yourself, your ability to take care of others becomes severely compromised. Being skilled at taking care of yourself improves your capacity to care for others; if you weren’t fulfilled, you’d only be able to see other people through the filter of your unmet needs. Not taking care of yourself is actually unhealthy for those who depend on you. And as my husband likes to say, “If Mommy’s not happy, no one is happy.” 

If you’re running on an empty tank and fumes of habit, everyone loses. So rid yourself of the guilt you feel when you relax, refuse a request, or take time for yourself. You need it and deserve it if you want to be at your productive best!

Remember, play is not frivolous behavior. The word “recreation” contains the two words “re” and “create.” Play is the way to re-create yourself, every day, and remind yourself you are not your work. Your work is part of your life—an important part, yes—because it allows you to live, but it’s not the most important part. You must find time to play!

Make it a productive day! ™

(C) Copyright 2006 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. 

This article may be reprinted provided the following credit line is present:

“© 2006 Laura Stack. Laura is "The Productivity Pro"® and the author of Leave the Office Earlier and Find More Time. She presents keynotes and seminars on time management, information overload, and personal productivity. Contact her at 303-471-7401 or www.TheProductivityPro.com.”