Play is what we do when we engage in an activity purely for enjoyment and fun of it rather than for a serious or practical purpose. It’s something we do so easily as children, but for – many of us – can fall by the wayside in adulthood. Play is the enemy of perfectionism…
“Play is the beginning of knowledge.” – George Dorsey
When you suffer from a chronic illness, it can very easily become the focus of your life. That’s (yet another) side effect of chronic disease.
And, when you are undertaking a healing protocol, like say – The Autoimmune Protocol, for example (!) – it can become a little like you are permanently shining a magnifying glass on your symptoms. Especially if you are being a good AIPer and keeping a food and mood diary.
Nobody will ever care as much about your health as you do. So, when you commit to significantly changing your diet and lifestyle, it stands to reason you take this healing game very seriously.
Obsession may become a very real possibility…
Which is exactly why making time for play is so important
Taking time out for play is an important part of this healing caper. Getting out of our heads, learning new skills, exploring our creative side and meeting new people are all part of this ‘playing’ gig.
And play is really good for you! The National Institute of Play (and yes! – There is such an organisation), says:
- Play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature, it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding.
- Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. Additionally, it gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these byproducts are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.
- Play enhances relationships. The NIP cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.
- Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humour, the enjoyment of novelty and the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies. Other hallmarks are the enjoyment of mutual storytelling and the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies.
- Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and a deepening, more rewarding relationship – true intimacy. Who wouldn’t want this in a relationship?
In other words, we need more play!
The Autoimmune Personality
In my time as a health coach working with autoimmune sufferers, it has become clear that many most of us share a tendency towards ‘Type A’ personality traits. Things like a strong propensity to move immediately from one task to the next with little time for reflection, a hefty competitive streak, a serious case of critical self talk and holding ourselves to higher standards than we do others.
We are perfectionists…
We present a bright face to the world, even if that’s not how we really feel. We’re so good at this, we sometimes even manage to fool ourselves.
We are like ducks on the lake – on top of the water, we are in control, gliding along. And, underneath, we’re frantically paddling to keep ourselves afloat.
But, our Type A tendencies have not served us.
In fact, it’s more than likely they have contributed to our autoimmune disease(s) by affecting our ability to manage stress and practice self compassion.
Perfectly Imperfect – A Story
During the class, Maryanne spoke of how she learnt the craft of weaving by connecting with women in California who were keeping the Navajo tradition of weaving rugs alive.
Part of the Navajo tradition is to always deliberately weave a mistake into the corner of a rug. The Navajo apparently say it’s, “where the Spirit moves in and out of the rug.”
That’s a hard message for perfectionists to understand – this calculated mistake. We tend to spend our lives trying to remove imperfection. We even try to follow the Autoimmune Protocol perfectly!
The story particularly resonated for me.
As human beings, we learn by doing. But, it is impossible to be the best at everything.
Everybody is a beginner at sometime.
Engaging in play gives us the opportunity to focus on something other than our health. Often, this ‘time out’ can create the space for new perspectives, too.
I wonder what you do for play?
*it was a fabulous class and if you are in Sydney and have not yet discovered The Happenstore, I encourage you to check it out!