Engaging Playfulness as a Tool

The practice of InterPlay1has really helped me reclaim playfulness as an adult, and in my 13 or so years of practicing it I have learned to appreciate what play can bring me as a tool for experimenting and gaining new perspectives. I also recently became certified as a Laughter Yoga leader and have added laughter to my repertoire of professional playfulness. 

Play in this sense is different to gaming. To quote Stephen Nachmanovitch:

“ ‘Play’ is different from ‘game’. Play is the free spirit of exploration, doing and being for it’s own pure joy… Play is an attitude, a spirit, a way of doing things, whereas game is a defined activity with rules and a playing field and participants.”2

I have already written a blog post on ‘the power of doing things just for fun‘. To compliment this, I wanted to share some simple tips and ideas inspired by both my InterPlay and Laughter Yoga experience to help you engage the spirit of play in your life – they are applicable to both your personal and your professional life.

  1. The Easy Focus tool of InterPlay can help you get into a playful state of mind. Imagine you are gathering up all of your thoughts in your ‘focusser’ in the middle of your forehead. Then bring your hand up to there, make to grab them and – ‘wheeeee’ – throw them over your shoulder. Playfulness involves spontaneously following what is appealing in the moment.
  2. Use laughter to change your outlook or to help you take things less seriously. In Laughter Yoga we laugh without there having to be a joke. If you can simply laugh about issues you are grappling with it may totally change your perspective. Literally just think of the issue and laugh for a few minutes – notice what it does to you. The Laughter Yoga people say that it takes 10 – 15 minutes of hearty laughter to create a physiological response in the body3, but the act of laughing about a serious issue even for a short time can open up a playful state of mind around the issue for me personally. You can also see if there is a laughter club near you where you can join a laughter session to get more experience with laughing for no reason.
  3. Learn to improvise well – improvisation invites playfulness and experiment. I personally use InterPlay as my improvisational practice, but any improvisation classes or practices can help you become more playful. Play is inherently improvisational and spontaneous.
  4. Engage silly voices and the perspective of other beings/people when exploring an issue. Again, InterPlay has structured practices to do this, but you can always just find your own way. Speak from the perspective of a child or a monster grappling with the issues in your life for example. You can do this in the privacy of your own living room or invite a friend/colleague to play with you in this way.
  5. Try making some body movements on behalf of your issue and follow a childish curiosity in the movements you make. Take an ‘easy focus’ on your issue as described in point 1 and then dance around your living room on behalf of the issue. Notice which way your body wants to move when that issue is vaguely in mind and follow that. Even more playful: exaggerate your movements, or do the opposite by contrast and see how that feels. Yet again, InterPlay has many different movement practices that can bring you into the spirit of moving playfully and tapping your body wisdom in this way, but you can also always make something up for yourself.



1 See my own website for more on InterPlay www.animatearts.net, or also http://www.interplay.org

2 Nachmanovitch, Stephen, Free Play, Improvisation in Life and Art, Tarcher/Putnam, 1990

3 Laughter Yoga Information Booklet, available at http://www.laughteryoga.org