MINDSET: Play on! It’s good for your mindset.

Picture this: a football flying as a kid dives in the mud for a touchdown — score! Kids crawling up and down the jungle gym, flinging themselves from bar to bar, hanging upside down, or whatever else pops into their heads. They move with creativity and ease.

This integral part of childhood is what we often lose as recess and neighborhood kickball games give way to quarterly sales meetings, commutes, and responsibilities at home. Here’s how you can recapture your carefree days (and why your brain will thank you for it).

The power of play

Whether it’s your workout or your daily life, you need the unstructured fun of play.

When you’re laughing and playing, your body releases endorphins, or feel-good hormones, which can help relieve stress. And it’s not just horsing around. Research has shown that completing puzzles, playing chess, or doing other brain-bending, playful activities can improve brain function and memory.

These playful interactions with family and friends can also help overall mindset. A study in the journal Leisure Sciences found that highly playful young adults (those who rated themselves as being spontaneous or energetic) reported less stress and better coping skills.

How to fit play into your day

Our body, along with our mind, craves novelty. Variety could be key when it comes to overall enjoyment and satisfaction of physical activity. Play is one way to do that. Try adding these activities to your week for some fun.

  • Bring a ball or frisbee to a playground as a family with a picnic lunch and enjoy an afternoon of fun.
  • Play a game of two-hand touch football with the parents and kids in your neighborhood.
  • Take a dance class with a group of friends.
  • Take the entire family to a ninja warrior training gym and learn some new ways to overcome obstacles.
  • Sign up for a mud-run with the whole family and give your training and exercise some variety.