The Value of Play and Mental Deload

The Value of Play and Mental Deload

 

What gives me the right to write about ways to improve life? I am 32 years of old and that doesn’t quite qualify me as a “wise old man” with all the answers. Yet I learn as I go and find importance in things. I only write about what I’ve tried. I only write about what works for me or my clients. My end goal still is to help as many people with their health as possible and I believe, better yet, I know that holistic approach on health will do more than just writing on about how many sets you should bench press or how many of your calories should come from organic Brussels sprouts.

To have a healthy body requires one to have a healthy mind and a balanced life. You can’t win in everything by just going harder. And that’s why I am on a quest trying to show you a better way. All that being said, this is what I believe and champion for:

Healthy mind = Healthy body.
You can’t have one without the other.

Play

What’s the benefit of play in all of this then? It will reinvigorate, de-stress and reignite you. This will lead to a better sleep, more mindfulness and healthier eating habits. All which greatly improve your odds of achieving your health goals and the body that you want.

You will become more present when around your family and friends. You will feel calmer and more content and you’ll learn to turn off the constant chatter in your head. It give breathing room for new ideas. You will feel more productive and creative with your work. You will become a super-human level 7 (out of 5).

Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder or getting your own business off the ground, work runs the life for most of us. Whether our aim is to reach a certain paycheck, achieve a specific title or to be acknowledged as a leader in our chosen field, life can become monotonous with work. We chase acceptance or the feeling of “I am enough”. Add financial pressure on top and it’s no wonder work owns such a big part of our lives. I am not saying work is unimportant, it can provide a meaning to what you do. And most of us are ambitious to have an impact in the world in one way or another. 

Too much work, no matter how meaningful, can throw rest of our lives out of balance. If we are not careful, our health, both mental and physical, will suffer from bearing the load of constant striving for achievement. The stress of a typical type-a personality can become too much to handle if we don’t learn how to balance our lives with, seemingly unimportant times (for a typical untrained western mind or eye) of play and discovery. I say seemingly unimportant because rest and relaxation is not high on the lists of high achievers. You don’t hear about learning to relax, rather it’s the monotonous tone of constant hustle if you ever what to get anywhere in your life. 

Yet for most people such as you and I this will eventually lead to an inevitable breakdown. Over time we come to a breaking point after abusing our body for too long while ignoring nourishment. This doesn’t happen to everyone but it sure does happen to me and I am sick of hearing about how success is all about the “hustle” and “grinding”. We hustle and grind in expense of our health, striving for a goal post in the future with a thought of easing up once we get there. But both of us know that it’s not how things work. Rather, we hit our mark and move the goal post before we have a chance to celebrate or savor the moment.

I want us to have a more sustainable way of doing things. Why not build play and learn to deload throughout while striving for our goals. Think of it as a marathon with build-in rest breaks instead of marathon done as a sprint.

Or do you want to work 20 years to get to somewhere while delaying the enjoyment of everything else that life has to offer? Spend 20 year ignoring your health, making money and having an impact and then spend the next 20 years spending the money you’ve made to regain your health? Worse yet, abuse your body and mind for 20 years and drop dead before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. The choice is yours only to make. 

So how can we make sure life isn’t one way road of work, work, work and a little bit more work? We can do it by building in a routine for play. For few days a week block time in your schedule for an activity that seemingly doesn’t have means to and end. Pick something that you do only for the sake of that moment. The time block doesn’t have to be longer that half an hour but you have to fully immerse yourself in it. And it needs to be something that is an activity, not a passive “doing”. So reading a novel of watching  guitar shredding on YouTube doesn’t cut it.

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of activities to give you an idea of things to do:

  • Play an instrument.
  • Surf, fly a kite, go mountain biking, hike.
  • Draw, paint, craft, build Starship Enterprise with Legos. Do something with your hands.

This will shock you: I don’t include gym here since we don’t want a possible stress inducing activity. Unless training is a play for you, we don’t want it on the list. But for most of us training in a separate activity from play.

The list is as long as you want it to be. Choose an activity where you can fully immerse yourself in it. Here’s something to look out for to judge whether the activity qualifies for “play”: if someone would see you do it, they might think you are wasting time. But little do they know since lucky are the few of us who embrace the power of play.

 

Deload

What’s the difference between a deload and a play then? Deloading can be something you schedule in your calendar weekly for an hour or so. It’s your time to contemplate… stuff. It can be going for a walk or writing down your thoughts without a hint of judgement. You captivate your thoughts on a piece of paper or, for the digitally savvy, use Evernote. I do a bit of both. In a way it is similar to play that you “press pause”. You take a step back and reflect on what’s going and do a possible course correction if necessary.

I like to do this each evening with my gratitude journal. Well, it started as a gratitude journal in the beginning of last year but it has slowly morphed in to a diary of thoughts/gratitude journal/what went on today. Sometimes the entry covers a full page and other times it’s a sentence. There’s not a set amount I have to write, doing so would make it in to another must-do task. We don’t want that.

Too often we choose a direction, and speed into that direction without ever stopping to see if where we are going is where we want to be.

In summary, these are what I’ve found helpful in order to detach from constant need of achieving:

  • Schedule play in your week. If someone looking in would think you are wasting time, you are probably doing it right. Immerse yourself in it.
  • Do shorter amounts of play more frequently rather than scheduling large but infrequent blocks of time.
  • Allow yourself to let go of constant achieving. Don’t tie your self-worth to what you are getting done.
  • Do a block of weekly deload where you check whether you are heading in the right direction.
  • Ask yourself: “what is important?” Then see whether your current actions reflect your answer.

References:
-Brene Brown’s books Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection taught me that I don’t need to earn my time of play.
Tim Ferriss’ blog post on deload reminded me of the importance of scheduling it in.

 

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