Maryellen P. Mullin sees lots of people going through life on autopilot: complete tasks, eat, sleep, repeat. “It leaves them bored, disconnected and lonely,” says Mullin, family therapist and founder of San Francisco Family Therapy in San Francisco, CA.
One way she helps patients break free from this vicious cycle is by encouraging them to be more playful at work. “Even with the hovering shadows of life’s experiences, there is a part of you that once felt limitless, excited, curious and happy,” Mullin adds.
Here’s how to channel your inner kid and feel more alive:
1. Do something unscheduled
It’s all about baby steps, says Mullin: “Start with a walk at lunch, or try a new restaurant.” Mullin suggests asking your partner for a few hours of unscheduled and unstructured time to “discover” somewhere unfamiliar.
2. Wear your cape at work
Sporting a new color, a new piece of jewelry or a new tie at work are easy, subtle ways to let your creative side out, Mullin points out. “What we wear influences how we feel about ourselves,” she says.
Outside the office, have fun playing dress up like you did when you were a kid.
“If your job requires a uniform, let your style show on the weekend. If you have kids in your life, be their superhero for an afternoon and dress the part,” advises Mullin..
3. Go radio silent
A gesture as small as leaving your phone in your desk drawer at work during lunch will do wonders for your mental health. “You did this as a kid – hours without interruptions,” points out Mullin. It may take time to establish this new habit, she says, but once you do, you’ll find yourself looking forward to the freedom of a smart phone disconnect.
4. Actually play
“Just get out there and play,” Mullin says. Her recommendations include buying an adult board game and inviting people to your house and going out for trivia night at a pub.
When we forget to play and get lost in the logical side of adult life, she says, we shut down a vital part of what keeps us happy and balanced, wards off stress, and enables us to stay connected with others
Bring out your playful self with a dance party at home, Mullin suggests. For the science behind the importance of play, Dr. Stuart Brown Ted’s Talk is worth a 20 minute snack-break.