Growing up on a wonderful, kid-friendly street in Chicago, I loved to play outside. My earliest memories are of riding my bike with my brother or jumping in and out of crookedly drawn hopscotch boxes with the neighborhood girls. Now the only things that come close to those days of recreation are pedaling on a stationary bike at the gym or wistfully looking at children excitedly engaging in a game of tag.
I know why I stopped playing: kids, work, marriage, lack of time, adult playmates gone astray. Figuring out ways to change that, however, is more difficult. Most moms quit fitting in fun when we are pressed for time by the demands of family life. We start putting our own joy last on the list. But the benefits of play for adults are too important to cast aside. It can add balance to a hectic schedule and be a great, healthy antidote to stress. It also boosts your brainpower by forcing your mind to change, adapt and learn something new.
So why don't you make play a priority by putting it on your schedule this month? Meet up with a colleague at a lunch place you've been meaning to try. Or have a phone date with a friend and talk while watching your favorite reality TV show. In other words, move downtime to the top of your list and use it to have fun. And the next time you walk by one of those chalk-drawn hopscotch boxes, why not take a 15-second break. Smiles, calm and joy are just a stone's throw away.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.