The Lost Art of Play: Impacts on Brain Function

Published On - 12 February, 2023By Alina Butunoi

Although many people think of play as something that we only do to amuse ourselves, scientists are beginning to discover that play is no insignificant matter. In fact, studies have found that play facilitates learning in both academic and social areas. Not only that, but engaging in more play can help people improve their mental and emotional wellness as well as boost their creativity.

However, this is only the beginning of how play can have a beneficial impact on brain function. We are now beginning to prove what many people have already known for a long time. Living life without play can have serious negative consequences on both mental and physical health.

On the other hand, making play an appropriate part of life can help keep people vibrant and healthy. But what is so powerful about play, and how does it provide all of these benefits? Read on to learn all about the biggest ways that play can benefit the brain!

Enjoy Neurostimulation by Adding Play

One of the most reliable ways that play benefits the brain is by stimulating the nervous system. Your brain and spinal cord make up the core of the nervous system that we all use to control our bodies.

One of the most incredible things about our nervous system is how capable of adapting it is. Even if you have spent your entire life playing by certain rules, engaging in play can present you with a situation in which it makes sense to play by very different rules. We see this all of the time when people play sports and other games.

People can spend decades of their lives learning about the appropriate ways to relate to each other. However, as soon as they step into the boxing ring, their brains are able to understand the difference in context and activate very different modes of action and perception.

However, the brain is not only capable of adaptability, it depends on it for health. If you do the same things over and over again forever, your brain can become stagnant.

If you have not engaged in true play for a while, it can take some effort to help your brain return to this old mode of being. However, by so doing, you will help your brain and nervous system exercise adaptability muscles.

The more you play, the more active your brain and nervous system will become. New possibilities will start to become salient in your perception. With so much to do, it can be hard to get bored or lose appreciation for life!

Learn From Errorless Experience by Playing

There are two kinds of thinking that can be difficult to distinguish from each other. One way of thinking is all about assessing and measuring things.

If it looks at 100 flowers, it might think about which flowers are better or worse. It might also categorize the flowers according to type, color, size, or any other abstract quality that they share in common.

People also apply this measuring and analytical mindset to others and even themselves. As a result, they sometimes perceive themselves as better or worse than others based on which abstract qualities they possess. This kind of mindset places a lot of pressure on people to make sure that they are one of the “best flowers” being measured.

The Playful Mindset

However, another type of mindset eliminates the stakes in experiencing life. Instead of focusing on things being better or worse, the playful mindset invites people to merely observe and watch what is happening in the world without judging it. Beyond that, this mindset invites people to participate in what is going on in the world just for the sake of seeing what will happen.

This kind of mindset does not have goals in the same way that a more analytical mindset does. That also means that there is no room for failure or error.

If you go to kick a ball just to see what happens and it spins off to the side and bounces off of a wall, that is not a bad kick, it is a successful attempt to find out what happens when you try to kick a ball!

This playful mindset allows people to engage in a huge variety of activities without feeling like their personal sense of worth is at stake. That means that they can enjoy many educational experiences without ever committing errors.

Not only is this possible, but it also turns out that this is the most powerful way to learn! One of the main points that the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul makes is that engaging in play trains the brain to enjoy new experiences, make new connections, and grow without having to force the brain through unmotivating learning experiences.

Develop Mindfulness With Playful Responses

Play is also a powerful tool for helping to develop mindfulness. After all, it invites people to engage with the world merely to see what happens rather than to try to make any specific thing occur.

When people engage in the world in this way, they often find themselves surprised by what happens. Then, they can notice that surprise and realize that they expected something else to happen. As this process repeats, people can start to notice their subconscious expectations and when they are violated.

That can help people understand themselves better and develop more mindfulness.

Understand How Engaging in Play Can Affect Brain Function

We hope that you have a new appreciation for how important play can be when it comes to improving brain function. The truth is that play seems to be one of the most advanced methods nature has invented to allow a complex brain to create itself…

More and more studies are discovering different ways that play benefits the mind. All signs seem to indicate that we will discover even more ways that play is beneficial for brain function in the future.

To learn more about how the right neurostimulation can benefit the brain, reach out and get in touch with us here at any time!

About Author

Alina Butunoi

Alina Butunoi is one of Ottawa's most respected brain training and pain management practitioners. A previous nominee for the Ottawa 40 Under 40 business leaders, she is also a certified Movement Neurology Specialist with Z-Health, a cutting-edge neuro-exercise system that helps improve health, alleviate pain and maximize athletic performance.

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