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Kids are diving into two months of summer fun — an extended recess, if you like. Their vacation visions might include swimming, bicycling, kayaking, baseball, and maybe a lazy afternoon reading the latest “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book.
Adults would do well to follow their lead, setting time aside for a recess of their own. If your life feels weighed down with responsibilities and worries, it’s important to take time for yourself to be outdoors, to dance, to create — in short, to play.
Playing as kids means having fun, exploring, losing yourself in the moment. You should give yourself permission to do something enjoyable without feeling guilty that you’re “wasting” time. Just as recess does for youngsters, adult play releases tension, clears the mind, and encourages creativity.
The most obvious benefits of play that involves physical activity are improved cardiovascular health and lung function, reduced blood pressure, and, of course, burning calories. But exercise also lowers stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) while unleashing the “feel-good” hormones called endorphins that lift our mood and boost our feeling of well-being.
Getting exercise doesn’t have to mean a joyless jog around a track, though. When patients ask me how to fit more physical activity into their lives, the big thing I emphasize is to choose something you enjoy. Otherwise, a few days of determined effort will be followed by a decline of enthusiasm, and you’re back where you started.
Instead, try a new approach:
Think of adult recess as giving yourself time to enjoy something, while focusing less on the things you think you “should” or “must” do. You’re likely to find yourself happier, more relaxed, and a little healthier, too.