It is often said that the human race is growing increasingly stationary. Bogged down by work commitments and Facebook addictions, we grow overweight and depressed.
It’s true that life is tough. We are so concerned with trying to get, and then keep, a decent job and a comfortable home while conforming to various social expectations from not picking your nose in public (a good thing, obv) to marrying and having 2.4 kids.
There are Pinterest boards full of ‘inspiring’, if ultimately useless, sayings such as ‘choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life’, which is all very well so long as you don’t need money, shelter or food, and don’t mind that refuse collection and gynaecology might not feature on anybody’s list of dream jobs.
We all hope that one day we’ll land that dream job that we love and that pays enough, but until that happens, we plough on with our ‘for now’ occupations, telling ourselves something good will happen eventually. There is, however, one thing we can already do to make our lives not only bearable, but fun: play.
When was the last time you did something really silly? I’m not talking about drunkenly snogging your friend’s boyfriend or locking yourself out of your house, I’m talking playing Dizzy Dinosaurs until your felt sick, wandered around the house dressed as Spiderman because you felt like it or built a sandcastle just so you could knock it down again?
The chances are you haven’t really played properly since you hit your teens. You might be on a sports team or play on Football Manager, but this is organised and competitive, where you’re playing to win instead of simply playing.
We have somehow decided that you can suddenly be ‘too old’ to play. This is particularly true for girls, who often abandon childhood games long before boys do, and certainly don’t feel the same level of acceptance to carry on playing into adulthood, as men tend to with their boyish hobbies like model railways, 5-a-side football tournaments and spending all night in the pub playing pool.
If women play a sport, it is usually because they have always been good at it, settling on a discipline they got into at school or university, or because they have a dogged determination to lose weight or keep fit, even if the idea of an evening spent on a treadmill fills them with dread.
Last year a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that 59% of adults felt more stressed than they did five years ago, and only 39% said they dealt with stress by enjoying their favourite hobbies
So I am launching Project Big Kid, an initiative to get me and my fellow adults playing again. It’ll be super cheap, lots of fun and will hopefully leave us all feeling a lot better about ourselves.
Project Big Kid: the rules
1. Question everything.
Modern humans now go through a funny curve of knowledge: infants want to learn about everything, teenagers know everything and adults know nothing but will Google something in a heartbeat just to prove that they are right and you are wrong. So next time you see something a little bit unusual, say a particularly colourful bug, make up an elaborate story about what it is and why it’s there. And then maybe Google it to see if you should get pest control in.
2. Step away from the computer and put down your phone
Sure today’s babies are being raised on iPads and cBeebies, but I’m pretty certain they still play with plasticine and building blocks. Candy Crush might seem like a fun way to spend half an hour, but it doesn’t come close to a 30-minute ramble through some muddy woods.
3. Try new things
When we feel pushed for time, we are reluctant to spend time doing things we might not like or be good at. It’s all part of the learning process that makes us rounder people. I’ve tried learning lots of things since leaving school, from pottery making to British Sign Language, and though I’ve learned that I’m not a natural at either, I now understand a lot more than I did before.
Our tastes change as we get older, too. You might claim that you’ve hated mushrooms ‘forever’, but when was the last one you tried one just to check?
4. Don’t be afraid to get mucky
If you’re reading this, it’s fairly likely that you have easy access to running water and basic medicine, so don’t be shy about grazing your knee or falling in some mud.
5. Rules are made to be broken.
Over the next few months, I’ll be finding ways to fit more play into our adult lives. If you have any ideas or you’ve already to make your life more playful, let me know in the comments below!