Twelve ways to stay playful in isolation

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Making time for play is more important now than ever. In the pre-isolation era, our community groups and sports club provided much-needed in-person social connections and a dose of playfulness. In this very challenging time, it is vital to sustain our connections, maintain unity in the organisations we belong to, and keep our bodies and minds active. We also need to get creative, adapt to our new normal, and open up to new directions. Here are 12 ways you might stay happy, healthy and connected in isolation.

#1 Expect silliness

The first thing to acknowledge is that we’re all likely to be experiencing a bit of cabin fever, which means we’re likely to get a little silly – perhaps even a bit annoying. Expect it, acknowledge it in yourself, and more importantly, expect some silliness in your colleagues and co-isolationists. If we can all make a little more space for each other to “act out”, we’ll all be better off.

#2 Do nothing

Now isn’t necessarily the best time to start your new side hustle or creative project. Instead, take some time to sit in a state of purposelessness, to be idle and to let your curiosity and attention wonder playfully.

#3 Do something

Don’t do absolutely nothing. It’s important to carve out time for special activities, to have things in your calendar to look forward to, and to include some physical, mental and socially engaging experiences in your routine. Some specific suggestions follow.

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Daniel Teitelbaum is an educator, event producer and facilitator specialising in personal and professional development through play. He has been the head of content at The School of Life Australia and is the community manager at Our Community House.


#4 Use your hands

There is a very special relationship between the hand and the mind, one that has been helping us to understand and interact with our environment since the beginning. Make time for your hands and build with LEGO, make paper planes or try some origami, draw and paint, glue things together, cut up cardboard boxes, fix a bike or try a puzzle. Using your hands will make you more productive in your work.

#5 Tell stories

Storytelling is an important part of what makes us human. Read stories to your friends and colleagues, write stories of your own or co-create them through storytelling and improvisation games. There are plenty of resources online.

#6 Play with your senses

We have quite a few senses, all tasked with telling us something about the world around us. Sensory meditations can help you to appreciate your human self and all the information you miss out on in the everyday. Try a sensory scavenger hunt by sitting still and focusing in turn on everything you can hear, see, smell and touch. If you want to branch out further, test your balance and your ability to sense temperature.

#7 Play by yourself

Playing solo can be a deeply rewarding, creative and meditative experience. It can feel a little silly, though, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. You might remember the ways you used to play solo as a kid. Maybe it was collecting things, or doing puzzles, or playing with cards or making up stories. Draw inspiration from your former self and take some time to play alone.

#8 Play with other people

It’s vitally important to keep up your social connection but so many of the ways we used to spend time together aren’t available to us right now. Play is a wonderful way to feel connected to others, and thankfully most of us can access some form of video chat. Find a way to play online, or over the phone. Creative solutions enable us to play together at a distance.

#9 Design a game

Inventing a game can be even more engaging than playing one and it’s a great way to learn just what it takes to make an experience fun or interesting. Design games to keep the play evolving and to keep up your creativity. The practice of designing games also translates into a deeper understanding of how people interact with each other and systems, which can help to open up your thinking in the work you do.

#10 Play a video game

Video games are a little scary. They can be addictive, they might seem anti-social and sometimes they’re quite violent. It’s okay, though, to have some video game play in your routine. Try to make it social (video chat and multiplayer games) and always set a timer to contain the play to a specific time. Studies have shown that a lack of play in your life is a more dangerous thing than violent video games.

#11 Rest well

In order to play we must rest. Take the opportunity to rest in all this. We can’t play if we aren’t well rested and we can’t be our creative, curious and present selves if we don’t play.

#12 Come to my workshops

Play in Isolation is a free online workshop series in which I explore a few essential elements of play. These workshops are designed to help us navigate these difficult times; to find creativity, connection and lightness as we adapt to a changing world. Register for them here: www.playfulthinking.com.au/covid19.

Daniel Teitelbaum is an educator, event producer and facilitator specialising in personal and professional development through play. He has been the head of content at The School of Life Australia and is the community manager at Our Community House.

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