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Quiet Your Mind and Just Play (in 20 Ways)

“If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.” ~Bob Basso

I spend a lot of time contemplating and philosophizing about life. According to my mother, I spent the first year of my life silently observing the events around me with a serious stare and a furrowed brow.

I’ve always leaned toward reverent acts of self-discovery and introspection. In high school I studied Buddhist texts and on Sunday mornings at age 18, when my college classmates were nursing hangovers, I was shopping around for a spiritual home, which I found in the form of my Unitarian-Universalist church.

For most of my life, I’ve lived with intention and rarely with abandon.

And I think I’m starting to feel the weight of this.

Contemplation has its place, but sometimes life just calls for a little spontaneity—a small dose of irreverence interspersed amongst the otherwise-trying bits of living.

I write this tonight because I have had a few uncharacteristically playful moments over the past few weeks, and I am quite sure they have prevented me from cracking up during some significant stress. Either that or, I am cracking up and my behavior has regressed to that of a 4 year-old.

In either case, it feels good.

And I want to share those good feelings. So to encourage you to foray into the world of play, I’ve created a list of some things that have brought me unexpected and simple joy the past few weeks (along with some things I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to do just yet).

Have fun and en-joy!

20 Ways to Play

1. Blow bubbles in the bathtub. Sometimes they bounce off the surface of the water. And when they pop, they make this satisfying “click” sound. If the lights are off and you have candles burning, the reflection in the soapy dome that hovers on your bath water is mesmerizing.

2. Hula hoop. I just learned this skill. At age 32. It’s addictively fun. Jump “rope” with the hula hoop, too. Just for laughs. My good friend advised me to, “Never hula hoop naked.” But I think that if you’re after laughs, this might be a good route.

3. Make a “fortune-teller.” Then write ridiculous fortunes on the inner flaps. Present it to friends and neighbors for a range of amused smiles and baffled glances.

4. Teach your dog a trick. Another hula hoop-inspired one for me, as my dog loves to leap through the hoop with the promise of a morsel of pepperoni. And her enthusiasm is contagious.

5. Be a “surprise fairy.” Leave an anonymous gift or token for someone special. It could be a trinket or a poem, a hand-me-down necklace, or a handmade card.

6. Belt out a show tune. Preferably in public. I won’t even tell you what’s been in my repertoire recently, but it’s a calypso tune sung by an ocean-dwelling animated crab. Catch my drift?

7. Use stickers. Liberally. Just slap ‘em on notes and letters and planners. I dig Hello Kitty, but to each her own.

8. Write silly poems on the envelopes to your bills. Last month’s masterpiece to my electric company expressed my relief at the rising temperatures and the lowered energy bill, and wished the reader a sunny afternoon.

9. Leave a song on someone’s voicemail. Your high school best friend will be thrilled when he leaves work to check a voicemail containing the epic musical swells of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

10. Play with clay. You don’t have to be a sculptor. Get some play clay and roll out some worms, construct a tiny dinosaur (even if it looks like a rabbit), or use a cookie cutter to make a row of stars.

11. Run down a hill. Or roll. Get some speed and feel the abandon. You’re freeeeee!

12. Draw on the walls. Use bathtub crayons and create something while you shower. Or get some sidewalk chalk and have fun making hopscotch courses outside. Tape paper to your wall and scrawl in broad strokes with markers. It’s liberating.

13. Give in to an urge. It’s 11pm and you’re suddenly compelled to drive to the beach? Do it. It’s 10am and the sunshine outside your office window is luring you out to take a walk? Do it. Not all urges are irresponsible. I think when we feel drawn toward freedom or to do something spontaneously, it’s usually our soul’s plea for joy and levity. We can’t always ignore that or ask it to wait patiently for the weekend. If we do, it may stop speaking to us all together.

14. Borrow a kid. If you already have one, borrow another for a change of pace. Go to the playground and chase them around. Let them push you on the merry-go-round. When the other adults shoot you a look, smile inside, content in the knowledge that you know a secret to happiness: Play!

15. Swing on the swings. With or without kids. Feel the breeze across your face and the drop in your stomach when you go just a little bit higher.

16. Learn a new trick. I still can’t do a cartwheel. And I can’t quite dive. But every time I set out to do either, I feel a renewed zest for life. Try something new and have fun with it.

17. Play an instrument. Bongos and kazoos are fun for the not-so-musically-inclined.

18. Make a “faerie garden.” My mother did this with my son recently. She used an old wooden crate and some found objects, and let him create a beautiful little “garden” filled with ceramic turtles, tree branches, and an angel figurine. There’s no real reason. But why not?

19. Throw a party. Go all out and make it a themed event for all of your friends. Or go small scale and celebrate your dog’s birthday with some balloons, a new toy and a feast of fresh beef and rice. You can celebrate anything, if you want to.

20. Dance in Public. At a karaoke bar or in the grocery store. And if you somehow just can’t bring yourself to do it…do it anyway.

These moments of fun and play are what keep me feeling alive. I consider them to be my soul’s expression of joy. And my body’s expression of joy. And my heart’s expression of joy. But my mind is blissfully quiet during these times.

In these moments, my mind is off the hook, and all I have to do is just play.

Photo by Brian Tomlinson

Avatar of Angela Marchesani

About Angela Marchesani

Angela Marchesani is a psychotherapist and Holistic Health Coach practicing in Wayne, Pennslyvania. Her website is www.spokesholistic.com.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://gloriink.com/ Glori Surban

    Number 14 made me laugh out loud!
    Great list!

  • http://www.likesandloves.com/blog Flaviena

    I looove this post! Namaste

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003648622943 Pleerbus Tarim

    Thanks for this post. No.14 reminded me of the time I took my niece to the big city to show her around and buy her ice cream. She spontaneously started dancing on the sidewalk to my amusement which brought me so much joy! Think it’s time for another visit to the city with her real soon!

  • kittycru

    I think this is so important. It connects us with an inner joy and light. The inner child. And chidren just live in the moment too. I am inspired by my own tiny buddha (9 month old daughter), who does everything with her whole body and soul, and she shines with joy.  We could all do with a little of this in our serious ‘growed up’ lives. My particular favourite play is to jump in puddles especially without wearing the appropriate footwear. I also spontaneously dance in public. My brother in law disapproves though, he thinks its ‘silly’. He’s quite right. It is and I love it. I hope to see him dance and splash in puddles one day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730576681 Carrie Mass

    awww – this is great.  thank you!

  • http://www.bluecollarworkman.com/ TB at BlueCollarWorkman

    I swing on swings with my girls.  That’s a great one! Notes I include to the electric company are usually digruntled… but a happy, silly poem?  Intresting new take :-)  You should have fun with life… when did it get beat out of us?

  • Tommybarefoot

    This is great.  I might add “Take off your shoes somewhere in public – a park, on a walk, on the town square – and just stroll or romp barefoot for a while.  Be careful and be appropriate, but above all, be a barefoot kid!”

  • Emivance

    This post is everything – I think playtime should be a requirement no matter how old you are. Number 20 – Dance in Public, there’s nothing more “in abandon” to me than dance. I’m not even a great dancer, it just makes you feel so free. Singing at the top of my lungs also has the same effect :)

    Thanks so much for this post! It’s beautiful! 

  • http://www.theadventurecouple.com/ Mantagirl

    Great ideas.  The sad thing is that we have to be reminded to do them!  I had a high ceiling condo last year and actually put a swing INSIDE.  There was not a sole who didn’t absolutely love and get on that swing.  Everyone from my 76 year old mother in law to my 6 year old nephew.  We need to bring out our inner child more often,

    Thanks for the nice post!

  • Krystlejadez

    awesome post. I can imagine as the writer you in person , must be like a happy 14 yr. old stuck in the body of an adult. lol but it’s true. all of it is so true happiness

  • http://www.OneMansWonder.com/ Jeffrey Willius

    Good for you, Angela! What you discovered — and what most of us know at some level — is that playfulness, joy and wonder are our default settings. Many mistake finding them as some kind of quest when it’s really just what you’ve done, a peeling back of layers — structure, stress, cynicism — to let life happen as it was always meant to happen.

  • Allison

    I still run real fast with a shopping cart and hop on for the ride as long as there’s enough room in the aisle! :)

  • http://twitter.com/crislata Cris Mendoza

    GREAT!!! Than you very much! Joy joy joy!!!

  • Melinda

    You forgot: color in a coloring book with LOTS of crayons. (Any type of art, in addition to clay modeling. COLORS help tickle the mind.) Thanks for the post.

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    I’ve been very contemplative/serious since I was a baby too, so I need this reminder!  Thank you, this was a cute list!

  • Tlfasig

    I stumbled across tiny Buddha about two years ago… And to this day it keeps me motivated to enjoy my life for what it is. This post especially reminded me of the simple joys there are and how easy it is to accomplish a feeling of such bliss.

    Thanks for posting this today.., I’ve needed to be reminded of the happiness that is all around me but to embrace it in all it’s rare forms.

  • http://www.zencaffeine.com/ Kaylee

    Man, did I need this reminder. Your story really resonates with me – I was never much of a partier, spent my weekends reading and have always been really contemplative and inward-focused.

    But I *definitely* need to balance that more with some lightheartedness and fun. I LOVED your suggestions!! My favs? #5 – be a surprise fairy; #8 – silly poems on bills (I NEVER thought of that! awesome!); #10… Aw hell, I loved so many of ‘em. Thanks for the great ideas. =)

  • http://www.zencaffeine.com/ Kaylee

    Yes, coloring!! I can’t remember the last time I cracked open a coloring book.

  • http://worldismycuttlefish.wordpress.com/ Annieyoung2

    So many ways to entertain a joyful spirit. I hear the Dalai Lama is childlike and playful (as well as being wise and mature).

  • Kathy Bishop

    No.18 stuck out for me – looking forward to it – and no.14: I’m going now. Bye and thanks for the list!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    I’m not sure how play fades into the periphery of life… but it’s helpful to bring it out! Your swing idea is awesome! Thanks for sharing. :-)

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Those simple moments DEFINE bliss, I think! Thanks for reading!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    YES! So true! 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Kathy, I want to see pictures if you create a faerie garden! It’s a great project and such a whimsical way to create something beautiful. Have fun!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    I’ve had clients question the difference between “childlike” and “childish.” To me, “Childlike” means with joy and zest. “Childish” means with a guarded ego. 

    I love the idea of “entertaining a joyful spirit!” Thanks! :-)

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Kaylee- We must be kindred spirits! So try some, this weekend, and report back! I look forward to hearing about your experiences. 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Then we can both practice playing. :-) Thanks for reading!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    YAY! JOY!!!!! :-) Thanks, Cris!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    You’re my hero. That’s going on the list! I love the idea. 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Jeffrey, I completely agree with that. Bliss and joy are our natural states, and it’s important to re-discover them when they feel dormant. Thank you for that feedback!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Haha, some days that’s true! Other days I’m stressed out under a furrowed brow and feeling heavy-hearted. These ideas help me stay playful and “light” in life. 

    Thanks for reading!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Yes! And for emphasis I’ll disclose that I never danced in public my entire life until I was 24 years old. Now I gleefully embarrass loved ones with my abandon. :-)

    Keep dancing!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Bare feet are such a joy! Great suggestion. 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Maybe the disgruntled quotes could alternate with a silly poem. :-) If you’re so inclined.

    I think responsibility and its inherent stress is what dampens our tendency to seek FUN. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can consciously PLAY and bring joy to our lives.

    Thanks for your input!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    I’m glad you liked it, Carrie! 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Yes to all of those things! Observing infants and children can stir dormant joy in all of us! I love your silly ways…. and when your brother in law finally feels compelled to stomp in just one puddle, please capture it on film. :-)

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Kids + Dancing = Fun, but Kids + Dancing + Undivided Attention and a Novel Environment = JOY. I think “new” brings out the play and joy in many of us. 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    I am so glad! Namaste.

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    :-) And I do mean “borrow” a kid, like with parental consent.

    Kids are like a VIP pass into life’s Playland. Thanks for reading! 

  • Rebecca

    Love love LOVE! I’m all about playfulness and having fun. This reminds me of a Plato quote: “Life must be lived as play.” If there’s no scope for fun, what’s the point?

  • Worldfoodie18

    I had fun just reading this!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    :-) GOOD! 

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Rebecca- Do you ever feel that tendency subside? And if so, how do you re-find it? I love the idea of “life must be lived as play.” What a great philosophy to live by. Thanks!

  • sweetborigirl

    I love your post!!!! I got a few ideas and some  of them I already do :-)
    Thank you so much! Wish more and more people would start doing this, imagine that!

  • Ajsmom1961

    it is important to let yourself go sometimes

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    I completely agree….  thanks for reading!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Awesome! Hope the new ones are fun for you, and I’d love to hear your other ideas…. come back and add some to the list! :-)

  • P.Callychurn

    Simple and practical.It is time we bring out the child, and the innocence within.And smash the ego and hypocrisy.These childish pranks and games will sure help identify our true self.

  • Sunshine

    Love your ideas and article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1108906100 Nichole Been

    Oh, how I love this.  My children help me with this every day.  I really dig this post.  Thank you.

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Yes! Let’s not take ourselves so seriously. Let’s not worry so much about what others think, and rather concern ourselves with how we FEEL. 

    Thanks for the response!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    Thank you, Sunshine! I’m glad. :)

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    :-) Yes, a perk of parenthood, for sure!… If we let it be. I hope you keep having fun with your children! Thank you for reading. 

  • sweetborigirl

    I dance and sing while I vacuum/clean, wake up a weekend day that is nice out and go to a park for a picnic, if it’s raining but warm I go out to get wet! (My husband and I did this once at a children’s park, it was empty and pouring raining, we went down the slides and played in the swings. We had a blast! Lol). We go to kids arcades and play for an hour or so and at the end we give the won tickets and even the last coins left to kids that may need them(we usually see kids that don’t have any and are just looking at the machines, I feel so good when I see their face lit up cuz they get to play or win something). Sometimes we cook extra food in special occassions for the elderly or lonely neighbors. Jump rope, make homemade frames (scrapbooking), learn a new skill (like sewing or learning to cook something new), get in touch with loved ones and let them know I miss them, try something new, go shoot pool or go bowling, call a friend and hand out, watch a good movie, go window shopping in the malls when is too hot to exercise, visit new places, sing in public (I don’t do it loud since I don’t have a great voice for singing, lol), dance in public and private too! Go for a hike, stop by pet stores and animal shelters just to take the animals out of their cages for some playtime. I like blowing bubbles outside. My favorite one is playing in pools/lakes. Well, my list keeps going but I’m gonna stop it here, what can I say. I like play hard. Lol.

    Just doing anything that is fun and I do a variety of things. That’s why is good to try new things, you never know if it may become of your favorite ones!

  • AngelaAtSpokesHolistic

    I LOVE IT! Swings in the rain with your husband? Brilliant. And the sort of ‘random acts of kindness’, like passing your tokens on to kids, are some of the best moments. Thanks for stopping back to share! I’m going to experiment with some of these for myself.

  • sweetborigirl

    Thank you.