Body Stories: Why grown-ups should play

May 29, 2024

Body Stories: Why grown-ups should play

How old were you when you stopped playing? Most of us would have reached an age where we were either told to ‘grow up’ or ‘stop being childish’. Or, we would have decided ourselves that we were too old to play.

But playing isn’t just for children. It’s important for adults too. It’s a de-stressor; it’s bonding; it inspires creativity, imagination and problem solving and it builds self-esteem. In our hectic lives where we’re preoccupied with work and family commitments, leisure time often means zoning out in front of the TV or structured fitness. That means we can miss out on the joy and fun of playing, where we can behave and socialise in an unstructured, creative way.

Our swimwear is all about giving you the confidence to move in a way that makes you feel amazing. We want to inspire joy, freedom and playfulness. We asked some of our customers why this is so important.

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Breaking rules

“The expectation is that you become an adult and you stop playing, you stop having this freedom to do unstructured stuff. You're told that there are lots of rules and regulations in your life that you have to adhere to,” says Mickey, aka Dr Michaela James, Research Officer in Play and Physical Activity in Swansea. “So, the idea of play gets completely removed, but it's so important. Through playing there are so many things that you encounter – the idea of failing, resilience, and having that freedom to do whatever you want without being refereed by anyone.”

In her Body Story, Mickey told us how she now runs playful physical activity sessions in the gym for teenage girls who are at just the age when you become self-conscious and stop playing. Through Girls to the Front, she inspires confidence through mucking about.

“We do lots of play-based activities. I believe in the value of play because I think it's really important for our development, not only when we're younger, but also when we're older,” she says. “I think we lose the ability to play and we put up loads of barriers because we think it's just messing around. But it's so fundamental to everything that we do. Like, going in to the sea and splashing about, doing doggy paddle and diving under waves is play and it’s so valuable.”

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Finding your flow state

“I’m really interested in the relationship between play and mental health; I particularly enjoy encouraging parents to play – both with their children and independently of them,” says Emma, founder of the community Playful Den, which encourages grownups to play.

For Emma, part of the joy of playing is finding your ‘flow state’. That means, getting so into whatever activity you’re doing that you don’t think about anything else.

“When we play, we are doing something for intrinsic reasons – just for ourselves, because we want to. There is no other objective when we play, it is just for fun – that is the very definition of ‘play’,” says Emma. “If you can get into that flow state then you forget about other things outside of that moment and start to realise that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s just about enjoying this moment.
However, I think being self-conscious about your body can be a barrier to play. You can’t really play and be worrying about your body – if you are, you’re not really at play. You might be going through the motions but you’re not in the mindset of play. Everyone is entitled to the high-level joy that comes with playing but to play you have to let go, lose control, be a bit silly.”

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How to play

So, do you play? It may be that you do without really noticing. If you swim in cold water, for example, jumping waves or diving in a cool pool, you may be getting into the flow state where you lose all self-consciousness and just enjoy being you in your body.

In her Body Story, Wendy told us how she had always watched her children swimming in the sea but been too self-conscious to join them. But, once she realised that nobody cares what you look like, she dared join her local Bluetits group and has never looked back.

“I remember seeing these women who were smiling so much that it radiated through everything else: all you could see was their joy. I wanted to play their game,” she says. “And they were so welcoming. If you’d had a crap day you could join them and talk about it, but you might not even need to - just being with people who are smiling and laughing carries you through.”

And the confidence that comes from playing can be life changing. In her Body Story, Rabiah told us how escaping into the water helped her unleash her creativity. “Once I’m in the water I’m not thinking about my day or things that make me sad or angry, I’m thinking about staying alive. It reminds me to focus on myself. It’s an amazing s form of escapism and it’s nurturing,” she says. “Once I got to know who I was I became so comfortable with myself and happy with who I was. If there’s something you enjoy or want to do, why shouldn’t you do it? I discovered my passions – music and DJing and have spent time doing the things I love, putting myself first.”

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