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All Health's Breaking Loose: Remember to have a play ethic

December 22, 2010

It's time to let go of 2010. As you look back, how was it for you? Are you remembering more stress and struggle than contentment and happy times? Was it a year you simply would not want to live through again? If so, then maybe it's time to take steps to find a more joyful life.

Whatever your problems were this past year — overwork or lack of work, relationship trouble, depression, fatigue or health difficulties — we need to train our brains to momentarily let go of the burdens. Think back to elementary school: We glared at the clock, we were perched and ready to spring from our desks, waiting for those last few exhilarating seconds to tick away before the recess bell rang. As soon as it did, we bolted for our spot on the playground. We already knew what we wanted to do: dodge ball, four square, the monkey bars. But if our first-choice activity was full, no problem, we went on to the next. It was the best part of the day and oh, how we looked forward to those 20 minutes.

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Now that we're grownups, we tend to make playtime complicated. We think it has to involve extravagant travel plans, new clothes and expensive show tickets. It doesn't. Remember how easily we let go of schoolwork and responsibilities just to get out onto that playground? We could forget about our difficulties with the teacher or our homework in an instant and be ready to catch a ball. The more complicated our lives get, the harder it is to let it all go and just play.

Recreation feeds your soul. Just as muscles need to rest after a hard workout, your psyche and brain need a rest after extended concentration. We expect so much from our brains that overworking has become the normal state of being. Remember, rest and rejuvenation are part of the cycle of life. Play follows work like spring follows winter. Having a good "play ethic" puts you on track for a full, healthy life. We just have to get good at allowing ourselves those moments to find that child-like joy and be ourselves.

Here are some ideas to ensure this new year is full of joy and happiness.

•Count your blessings. Make it a daily habit to say to yourself, "I am so lucky that I_____," and fill in the blank. Try to make this a naturally reoccurring thought, one that often floats to mind as you keep filling in the blank. This habit increases energy and can change your whole outlook on life.

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