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S
imply Well
 

Lighten Up with Humor, Play, and Pleasure

© John W Travis MD, MPH

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by John W Travis MD, MPH. View all columns in series

Collect jokes. Ask anyone around you for a joke or two. Get on an e-mail joke-mailing list. Call a friend and have them tell you a joke, even if they know you’ve heard it before. Now you share one with them. Get silly!

Watch young children at play. Note the spontaneity and sheer delight that often characterizes their activities.

Remember laughing so hard that your stomach hurt? Can you recall what provoked that? Let yourself feel it again.

Therapeutic humor is any intervention that promotes health and wellness by stimulating a playful discovery, expression or appreciation of the absurdity or incongruity of life’s situations. This intervention may enhance health or be used as a complementary treatment of illness to facilitate healing or coping, whether physical, emotional, cognitive, social, or spiritual.

The American Association of Therapeutic Humor

Redefining Play
Play is an essential component of wellness. It is necessary to keep the fun-loving part of yourself alive, nurtured, and happy. The dictionary defines play as recreation. Re-creation! So, in the fullest sense of the term, it means to make new, to vitalize again, to inspire with life and energy. When you give yourself time to play you give yourself new life. What words do you associate with play? Are they active words, like silliness, craziness, sports, games, excitement? Perhaps one of the reasons people don’t play more is that they have accepted a very narrow definition of play. Maybe they’ve looked around at what society tells them is "fun" to do and found that it wasn’t.

Imagine the world without pleasure. Life would appear colorless and humorless, a baby’s smile would go unappreciated. Foods would be tasteless. The genius of a Bach concerto would fall on deaf ears. Feelings like joy, thrills, delights, ecstasy, elation, and happiness would disappear. The company of others would bring no comfort or joy. The touch of a mother would no longer soothe, and a lover could not arouse. Interest in sex and procreation would dry up. The next generation would await unborn.

Ornstein and Sobel, Healthy Pleasures

Consider that play can also be described as absorbing, fascinating, peaceful, flowing, restful—that it needn’t be highly organized or competitive. Perhaps you have forgotten the natural play of your childhood, when you could lose yourself in exploring rocks, making a fantasy realm out of a chair and a sheet, or singing for your own amusement.

It is easy to get caught up in the frenzy of filling every minute of your working hours with meaningful business. But this becomes a self-defeating strategy when it flows into your leisure time as well. The fear of "wasting" time has become an obsession for many, so they end up on a fast track of play.

Teenagers suggest that you "chill out," or "relax, dude." These admonitions are important as you approach play. Please don’t use any of the ideas here to burden yourself with increased demands on your time and energy. Perhaps it’s time to just do nothing for some part of each day. Slowing down long enough to receive the simple pleasures that are all around you is one of the most effective ways to deepen your enjoyment of life and thereby enhance your overall health.

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About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of Wellness Associates, a consulting and publishing group whose mission is to transform the culture from its current focus on authoritarianism/domination into......more
 
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