Have you ever heard the saying that “playful women don’t age“? Well, it turns out that there may be some science behind this claim. Recent research has shown that women who maintain a playful attitude throughout their lives tend to age better than those who don’t.
But what exactly does it mean to be “playful“? It’s not just about having a good sense of humour or being able to let loose on the dance floor. Playfulness is a mindset that involves curiosity, creativity, and a willingness to take calculated risks. And according to experts, cultivating this mindset can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health as we age.
So, if you want to tap into the fountain of youth, it might be time to start embracing your inner child and bringing more playfulness into your midlife and beyond.
The link between playfulness and youthfulness
It’s not just a cliché – research has shown that people who maintain a playful attitude tend to look and feel younger than their peers.
In a study published in the Journal of Aging Research, it was found that mature adults who engaged in playful activities had higher levels of life satisfaction and better physical health than those who did not.
But why does playfulness have such a profound impact on our well-being? According to experts, it all comes down to the way our brains are wired. When we engage in playful activities, we activate the same parts of our brains that are associated with learning and creativity. This leads to increased neural plasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and change over time.
In other words, playfulness keeps our brains young and flexible, which can have a ripple effect on our overall health.
The science behind playfulness and its effects on the body
However, it’s not just our brains that benefit from playfulness – our bodies do too. When we engage in physical play, such as dancing or playing sports, we release endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. This can lead to an improved mood, reduced stress levels, and even some pain relief.
In addition, playful activities can have a positive impact on our cardiovascular health. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that laughter, which is a key component of playfulness, can lead to improved blood flow and lower blood pressure. This can have a protective effect against heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in women.
How ageing playfully affects mental health and emotional well-being
When we engage in playful activities, we also tap into a sense of joy and creativity that can help us feel more alive and connected to the world around us. In fact, playfulness can also help to improve our social connections and create a sense of camaraderie and shared experience that can help to strengthen our relationships. And this is crucial if we want to make new friends later in life.
Psychologist René T. Proyer explains in a study that people who use playfulness in their daily lives find ways to make situations more fun, interesting, and engaging being able to ease tension in difficult situations, whether at work or in social interactions.
Last but not least, Playful activities can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, too. In a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers found that engaging in simple, playful activities such as singing and dancing led to significant improvements in mood and well-being.
Ageing playfully and relationships
Speaking of relationships, playfulness can be especially important when it comes to maintaining a healthy and happy love bond. In fact, research has shown that couples who engage in playful activities together report higher levels of relationship satisfaction and intimacy.
When we approach our relationships with a playful attitude, we are more likely to be open to new experiences and to see our partners in a positive light.
“Playing is an exploration of the unknown borders of two psyches, whose contours can become reassuringly familiar only through the experience of mutual vulnerability and non-judgmental responsiveness,” writes marital therapist R. William Betcher. “It is through playing that we learn how to approach someone’s more intimate self.”
In addition, playfulness can help to diffuse tension and conflict in relationships. When we find ways to inject humour and lightheartedness into our interactions, we are more likely to be able to work through disagreements and challenges in a constructive way.
Incorporating playfulness into your daily routine
So how can we incorporate more playfulness into our lives? The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.
As we age, we tend to put off playfulness as the last thing on the agenda. Therefore, we should take playfulness seriously and schedule it in our diaries as a non-negotiable activity, rather than considering it as an optional one. This may involve setting aside some free time in our schedule to engage in spontaneous fun and adventure, or to spend quality time with our loved ones.
One easy way to bring more playfulness into your life is to try new things. Whether it’s taking a dance class, trying a new hobby, or exploring a new part of town, stepping outside of your comfort zone can help spark your creativity and sense of adventure.
Another way to bring more playfulness into your life is to connect with others. Simply playing a game with friends, socializing and having fun with others can help to keep you feeling young and engaged.
If you’re looking for specific ideas for playful activities to try, here are some suggestions:
- Play a game like Tennis-Table or Bowling
- Attend a comedy show or improv performance
- Host a game night with friends
- Try a new hobby, such as painting, art making or knitting
- Spend more time with kids and pets
- Go on a spontaneous adventure, such as a road trip or hike
- Take a playful approach to exercise, such as by trying a trampoline workout, Zumba or hula hooping.
The role of humour in adulthood
Of course, no discussion of playfulness would be complete without mentioning the role of humour. It’s a key component of playfulness, and it can have a powerful impact on our well-being.
Remember when we were kids and used to laugh all the time? As adults, life can get pretty serious and laughter becomes less frequent. But here’s the good news: by actively seeking out more opportunities for humour and laughter, we can improve our overall well-being and find greater happiness. And who knows, it might even add some extra years to our lives!
According to research, laughter can help to reduce stress, boost mood, and even increase pain tolerance. In addition, humour can help us to see situations in a more positive light, which can lead to increased resilience and a greater sense of well-being.
It has this amazing ability to bring people together and make positive changes in our bodies. Not only does it boost our immune system and improve our mood, but it also helps us deal with pain and protects us from stress. Seriously, nothing works faster or better than a good laugh to bring balance back to our minds and bodies.
Humour is like a superhero that lightens our burdens, gives us hope, and helps us connect with others. It keeps us grounded, focused, and alert. Plus, it’s a great way to release anger and forgive others.
Laughter is such a powerful tool for healing and renewal. It can help us overcome problems, strengthen our relationships, and support our overall well-being. And the best part? It’s absolutely free and so much fun!
According to Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas authors of “Humor, Seriously“, having a healthy sense of humour can benefit both business and life. They cite a study from Norway that followed over 50,000 people for 15 years, which found that those with a sense of humour lived an average of eight years longer than those without.
Despite the seriousness of the current global pandemic and the shift to remote working, Aaker and Bagdonas believe that humour is more important than ever. Laughing with someone, even through a screen or while socially distanced, can strengthen emotional bonds and make us more resilient, creative, and resourceful.
Conclusion: Embracing playfulness as a key to staying young
In conclusion, the science is clear – playfulness can have a profound impact on our physical and mental health, as well as our overall sense of well-being. By embracing our inner child and bringing more playfulness into our lives, we can tap into the fountain of youth and stay young at heart no matter what our age.
So go ahead and try that new hobby, sign up for that dance class, celebrate your birthday in style, or simply take a moment to laugh with friends – your body and mind will thank you.