How Play Impacts Happiness

The Importance of Play

“All this thinking about fun made me realize that I had to make time for it. Too often, I’d give up fun in order to work. I often felt so overwhelmed by tasks that I’d think, ‘The most fun would be to cross some items off my to-do list. I’d feel so much better if I could get something accomplished’” (Rubin 122).

If you’ve been following our social media, you’ve seen our weekly posts asking, “What would you do with more time in your day?” and the accompanying photos of enjoyable activities people partake in when they have free time. We decided that this was an important focus for The Arena App: it is designed to help you move through your day more efficiently, freeing up time for you to do the things you want to do, not just the things you have to do. Additionally, we are fans of author Gretchen Rubin and her book The Happiness Project. In the book, there is a chapter titled “Be Serious About Play;” we chose to tie the two concepts together – the free time that Arena brings to your day and the impact of play on happiness. Keep reading for our thoughts on how important play is in getting your work done.

play blocks

 

What is Play?

For the chapter, Rubin works with the definition of “…play – that is, the activities I did in my free time because I wanted to do them, for their own sake, for my own reasons, and not for money or ambition” (Rubin 112). In a world where people tend to focus on being productive – or, at the very least, staying busy – sometimes we forget to make time for things we enjoy. And not just what other people consider to be fun; you have to find what you think is fun. Rubin suggests employing a fun test, which contains three simple things: “You look forward to it; you find it energizing, not draining; you don’t feel guilty about it later” (Rubin 116). For some, this could be an activity as simple as taking a walk or reading a book; for others, it may involve learning a new skill, such as playing an instrument or taking a cooking class. The most important thing is that it’s enjoyable for you, and gives you a chance to focus on something other than work or family or you know…real life.

play outside

Currently, our society seems to be focusing on the ability to get as much as possible done in the smallest amount of time. With this focus comes the overarching question, “How do you ‘make time’ for the things you find fun?” It’s true that some days feel like there is no end to the list of things you need to do. But what if you didn’t actually have to do all of those things? There are a few methods that encourage you to focus your day on the largest projects you need to complete (Zen to Done, The 4-Hour Work Week). With The Arena App, as you enter your tasks for the day, you assign them along a scale of impact and effort, as well as the urgency for each. This gives you a better sense of what you know must get done today, and what you should/could work on if you have time. Once you have completed your day, you have time to focus on the things you want to do, which might even include something fun!

The Value of Play

“I saw that there was value in taking time to play…” (Rubin 131).

Some people may see fun as frivolous and unproductive; why should I waste my time doing something that won’t yield any viable results? Just because you may not be able to see the outcome of doing something fun and enjoyable doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. There may not be a goal or a finish line to a fun activity, but it will pay off. You may find yourself feeling more relaxed and energized after spending time doing an activity you enjoy, which can even lead to more productive workdays. So take the time to find something that is “satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition” (Rubin 113). You’ll thank yourself later.

play an instrument

 

Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009.