Remember when you were a kid, and you'd get totally lost in play? It didn't matter what else was going on in your life; while you were playing you were lost in your own joyful world of fun. In early childhood, it was probably pretty easy to get totally absorbed in that state of playful joy, but as you headed into your 'tweens, teens, and beyond, the worries of real life intruded, and you were less able to escape into play.
What happened? Why did it go away? "I grew up," you say. "Life got in the way. I have responsibilities." I get it. Unfortunately, we often condition our children away from play as we direct them towards greater responsibility because we want them to be successful adults. However, I'd argue this is misguided because in my opinion, being joyful is being successful.
When our boys were 9 and 11, we took them to Disneyland over spring break. We rode every big fun ride, and I spent the four days we were there laughing. I was playing, and it filled me with joy. It was during this trip I was reminded of the power of playfulness and how much even small amounts of play can have a big impact on how happy you feel. Since that trip, I've made a point to find ways to bring playfulness into my life every day. Doing so allows me to slip into that space of joy, and when I find it I can carry it with me and bring it to mind whenever life seems to get too serious.
Somewhere along the path to adulthood, many of us let go of our playfulness. We traded fun for things we perceived as being more grown up and in doing so, we lost one of our major sources of joy. And so I encourage you to find ways to play. Dance, sing,, spin in circles, and lay on the grass and look for four-leaf clovers. Sing at the top of your lungs to music on your car stereo. Roll down a hill. Tell a silly joke or make a bad dad pun. Crunch your feet through the autumn leaves. Lay on your back and look at the sky. Daydream. Hula hoop. Play a rousing game of Hungry Hippos. Build something with Legos. Pretend. Laugh so hard you snort. There are hundreds of ways to bring playfulness back into your life. Do it every day and remember the joy you once felt as a child. If you make a point to bring play back into your experience in big and small ways every day, your life can't help but be more joyful.