Here's Why I Make Time for "Play" Every Day—and Why You Should Too

What does it mean to play?

For July, THE/THIRTY adopted play as the theme of the month. The idea of free, no-plans, open, heartfelt fun. This is a topic I have experience with.

I'm currently writing this from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, overlooking the fountains soaring sky high, on a solo birthday trip. I planned this trip for months after a family health scare because I realized I wasn't making time for myself. If I'm not in Vegas having a selfish yet fulfilling trip, you can find me at Disneyland, where I'm grabbing pictures with characters and going on rides in varying Avengers T-shirts.


(Image credit: @missusatomba)

So I want to give you some play tips. Take a look below:

Limit Your Phone Time: If you are going on a solo adventure, stay off your phone. This isn't about being present. I find that if you get on your phone, you'll convince yourself everyone is having fun without you. If you are traveling, give yourself the first 24 hours off Instagram and other social media. The same goes for running to a theme park—don't spend the time in line scrolling your feed.

Map Out a Plan: When I go to Disneyland, I'm there for four things: tater tots, Captain Marvel, the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, and the Incredicoaster. Having a plan helps you not feel adrift. It also gives you a way to check in with yourself and make sure you are doing everything you want to.

Get Out of Your Head: These people don't know you, so get out of your head! This is a big one. To play, you might have to look a little silly. Most of us are afraid to look silly because of what we think everyone else is thinking. But guess what: No one is thinking about you! Seriously. The first thing people say when I go to Disneyland alone is, "Aren't people going to look at you funny?" I promise you the parents wrangling their children are not thinking about me and my Dole Whip. As a card-carrying Disney adult, I'm happy to say Walt Disney built Disneyland after attending a fair and thinking, Well this isn't fun for adults; it's only for children. So there, he built Disneyland with adults in mind too. It's okay to look a little silly. Don't follow the actor playing Captain America around trying to get his number. But if you love Brave and want to take a picture with Merida, do it. Or if you find yourself on a solo trip to Vegas, go see Magic Mike Live. I promise you no one is looking at you there by yourself; they have plenty of other things to look at.

Share Your Joy With Others: My last play tip is to share your adventures with other people. It may give them the freedom or motivation to play more too. It amazed me once I started sharing my play with others how many people expressed an interest in doing the same. We all need vision expanders—people who can help us see what's possible. Be a play vision expander for someone in your network.


(Image credit: @missusatomba)

You may be asking yourself, "How does a grown woman over 30, with responsibilities, find time to play?" Well, first off, how do you know how old I am? And second, I'm only responsible for myself and two dogs, which helps. But I make time to play. More than making time to play, I make time to play solo.

My mother always instilled in me the importance of dating yourself—taking yourself out and enjoying your own company. "If you spend your whole life waiting on someone else to take you somewhere, you could be waiting a long time." In college, I would take myself to the movies or out to a fancy restaurant. I didn't take a book; I would try to be present with myself the same as if I were hanging out with a girlfriend. I was uncomfortable, but I'm glad I did it. In undergrad, I got to enjoy some lovely restaurants and have wonderful conversations with waiters about food and wine. In grad school, I saw so many Broadway shows because I would go on my own. I would make a night of it, get dressed up, and play to my heart's content. How many shows would I have missed if I'd waited on someone else to take me? I made so many friends in the theater community by going solo, playing, and having open energy.


(Image credit: @missusatomba)

Play had never steered me wrong.

Then I upped the ante.

It was 2013, I was in L.A. for an MBA fellowship program, and I had 14 hours until my flight. I decided to go to Universal Studios. I'd never done anything like this on my own. What if everyone thinks I'm a weirdo? What if everyone is wondering who the loser is who came on her own? Those were some of the thoughts running through my head on the way over. Then I got to the park. I spent the entire day running around, feeling like a child. I got cosmic signs that my grandparents were with me in spirit, and I decided on that day that I was going to play out loud and go on adventures with the sole purpose of having fun.


(Image credit: @missusatomba)

You know that I think playing is important, and you know my rules, but you don't know my "why." My love of play goes beyond the simple "I deserve it" reasoning. It's my philosophical duty.

There's a stoic phrase memento mori, an idea I first learned from my late grandmother. It roughly translates to "remember you will die." (Yes, I know that was a downer, but stick with me here.)

The Daily Stoic sums it up:

"Meditating on your mortality is only depressing if you miss the point. It is in fact a tool to create priority and meaning. It's a tool that generations have used to create real perspective and urgency. To treat our time as a gift and not waste it on the trivial and vain. Death doesn't make life pointless but rather purposeful. And, we don't have to die to tap into this. A simple reminder can bring us closer to living the life we want. It doesn't matter who you are or how many things you have left to be done, a car can hit you in an intersection and drive your teeth back into your skull. That's it. It could all be over. Today, tomorrow, someday soon."


(Image credit: @missusatomba)

Every day is not promised, so let that impact what you do, say, and feel. I make a choice every day I'm allotted of how, where, and why I'm spending my energy a certain way. Time isn't in my control, but how I use it is. I'm an anxious ambivert who has to choose play or paralysis. I choose to meditate on the time I have and use it to work deeply and play unapologetically. If the choice is to wallow in Sunday Scaries or Rope Drop at Disneyland, you better believe I'm going to Rope Drop. (Note: Rope Drop is a term for when you get inside the Disney Parks before they open to literally watch them drop the rope and open the park to the public for the day. It's actually quite beautiful. In order to do it at Disneyland, I have to be inside the park at 7 a.m. You don't want to know what time I wake up to do that.)

Some days, play manifests as me taking my marathon training run outside. I play make-believe, pretending I'm in a zombie apocalypse or that Jonathan Majors is running in front of me, and I have to catch him. Some days, it's having a one-woman dance party in the 15-minute break between video calls rather than thinking about how much longer the work day is.

Life is short, so why not infuse more play? If no one has told you, you are allowed to play; you deserve to play. Be audacious and euphoric in making time to play. I promise you'll be better for it.

All the Products That Help Me "Play"

Next, I Tried Pottery Classes as a Way to Better My Mental Health—Here's What Happened


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.

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