Finding Happiness Through Resting and Playing

The following two tabs change content below.
Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

Latest posts by Lisa Powell (see all)

photo9(1)play  by kris carr

Americans seem to find it heroic to constantly work, and to stoically push through being sick, and to never just stop life long enough to truly rest and play. Last week, I wrote here about finding happiness in a real summer vacation.

This past week, I found happiness in genuinely resting and playing, taking time out to recover when I was sick and my body needed rest, and just enjoying my time with my niece and nephews on the Jersey shore at my parents’ beach house.

Personally, I don’t think it’s heroic to work when you’re sick. I don’t think it’s heroic to never take a break.

I don’t believe we are designed to be machines, who work nonstop, who never get enough rest, and who collapse when our bodies finally give it. But sadly, that seems to be how all too many Americans are socialized to live.

Rest and Play

I am a Martha Beck certified life coach, and one of the remarkable, revolutionary things she recommends that her coaches do is to stop working so damn hard, especially when we are in a time of confusion and indecision.

We are trained to push through the hard times, and all moments of our lives, by doing more. Simply being and sitting with our confusion is not something our culture and society encourage or in many cases even really allow, when people get pressure from all sides to make up their minds and just do something.

What if indecision and confusion are sometimes simply part of life? What if sitting with our confusion has something to teach us?

What if something that appears to be a life crisis actually turns out to be a blessing in disguise? Martha Beck’s own remarkable life story includes several of these turning point moments, when everything seemed to be falling apart, only to come together in a new and remarkable way.

When Everything Falls Apart – Rest!

Sometimes life throws us a curveball. We lose a job. We lose a partner.

We get sick. We total our car.

In the past few weeks, I managed to do both of the latter: I totaled my car in a scary crash that luckily left me intact, although it smashed my little 2002 Honda Civic coupe.

And I am still finishing healing and recovering from strep throat, after just getting over laryngitis a few weeks ago. My body has clearly been sending me some signals to slow down, rest and heal.

Luckily, I am actually listening. For two days last week, I didn’t really have a choice – I was so exhausted and feverish from the strep throat that I really couldn’t do much besides nap.

I spent two days basically just resting and drinking fluids. When I still wasn’t feeling well on the third day, I finally visited an urgent care clinic, and got the diagnosis of strep.

Ah, well, at least now I know what I was contending with! And am on meds so I can kick this bug.

I took this as a sign that my body geniunely needed me to slow down. Just a week prior, I slid into a guard rail on the highway and managed to total my car.

I am guessing that the stress of that meant that my immune system is down. So I opted to rest, relax and play to recover.

Play Is A Forgotten Art

For those who are lucky enough to be parents of young children, or someone like me who gets to play the role of the fun, crazy aunt, children are always a good reason to indulge in play. It is virtually their whole raison d’etre, and it is the way they embrace life and how they learn.

Those adults who are not regularly in the presence of small children often seem to forget to play. I can’t really imagine having this mindset myself, but maybe some people consider play to be “beneath them,” because they take themselves and their adult responsibilities and goals so seriously.

What people forget is that the most successful people in the world, in any field, are usually those who are doing what they love, and for whom work is also play. If that is the case for you, then maybe you don’t need a lot of extra recreation time, if you like some of my friends are already traveling the world dancing or playing music for a living, for example.

But if your work is not joyful, I would bet that your soul would benefit immensely from regular play. That can look like absolutely anything you want.

I love to dance, always have, and it brings me great joy. I still love swinging on swings at the playground.

I love splashing in waves at the ocean. I am cut-through competitive when playing word games like Scrabble or Boggle.

I am a master of being silly and love the ridiculous. I still love playing dress up and wearing crazy costumes, as often as possible.

In so many ways, I still feel six years old half the time, on the inside, and it is probably why my lovely six-year-old niece Luna and I get along so famously.

What Are You Doing to Play and Rest?

If you are overstressed, overworked, and overtired, I am betting that rest and play are exactly what your body and soul are crying out for now.

Martha Beck says that the way to live your dreams really is to play then rest, and rest then play.

Get outside and play today!