Do you remember how excited we used to get about Halloween as kids?  The pure merriment of knowing that our neighbors were going to give us our favorite candy – and for free! We got to dress up in costumes as our favorite characters, douse our siblings with silly string, and stay up all night telling scary stories.

Halloween truly lets us create and live in fantasy world, and anything seemed possible.

But somewhere along the way, we got too old for the playfulness of the day. As much as we enjoyed dressing up, we suddenly couldn’t bear the idea of looking look fat or weird in front of our peers. As we grew up, it became more important for us to look good than to have fun; more important to fit-in than to be creative.

Sure, you may still throw a costume together last minute for Halloween. But do you do it for the enjoyment? For the silliness? For the chance to indulge your imagination? Not likely.

Now you’ve got other, more ‘grown-up’ motivations. Your silly costumes have been replaced by sexy outfits and your yummy treats have turned into Tequila shots.

The truth is, Halloween is just one of many fallen soldiers in the fight for living more ‘productive’ lives. We’ve willingly given up the innocence we so cherish in children. We no longer create space for the raw, the ridiculous, or the random. If it’s not resume-building, or financially rewarding, it’s not for us.

Why You Need to Get Serious About Being Playful

However, research suggests that being playful is one of the most powerful ways to improve our health and happiness.

When you embrace your inner Silly Sally, here are some of the glorious things that start to happen:

  1. Improved Creativity

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”- Albert Einstein

Great innovators and artists like Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso often emphasized the importance of having fun in order to be more creative. Indeed, research has shown that playful people, much like children, tend to deal with challenging situations in novel and creative ways.

When a stressful situation comes up, most of us react with some version of the fight, flight or freeze. We’ll scream at our partner, walk out of a meeting, or get paralyzed with fear.

But research has shown that playful people don’t get caught in these traps. Instead, they approach the challenge with humor and curiosity. Consequently, they have an ability to see the lighter side of a problem, which lends them flexible thinking and a knack for transgressing from the established thought and reactive patterns. They solve problems faster, and without creating any emotional baggage that keeps us up at night long after the problem has passed.

  1. Greater Confidence

When we’re managing our work and lives, we’re often so caught up in what we should do, and who we should be. We are constantly bound by other’s expectations, and our desire to do right by those around us. We fear being judged, being rejected, or failing in the eyes our peers.

But often, this approval seeking causes us to stunt our own self-expression. We devalue our own opinions, feelings, and desires. In the long run, this is a sure-fire formula for inner turmoil, depression, and anxiety.

But people who play often gain tremendous experience with self-expression. They’ve learned to handle criticism with ease, knowing that there are rarely any permanent negative consequences. This builds their confidence and enables them to fearlessly stand up for what they want in their lives.

  1. Richer Social Experiences

These days, our digital, technology-driven lifestyle leaves us with very little opportunity for real social interactions. This is especially true for millennials, who have grown up in an increasingly isolated world, where independence and personal productivity are heralded as the gold standard.

Consequently, we often feel uncomfortable around people, and we rely on alcohol to ease our social anxiety. This discomfort only increases our sense of isolation, contributing to a never-ending, downward spiral.

When we play with others, we tend to let our guard down. We laugh more and embrace our collective vulnerability. This leads to much richer, rewarding and fulfilling interactions – and deeper relationships over the long term.

  1. Better Stress Management

Playful people are better at managing stress. Psychologists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, for example, found that when people think of themselves as playful, they are more likely to interpret new situations in their lives as entertaining and interesting, rather than stress-inducing. Hence, they often have lower levels of stress, and thus live happier and healthier lives, overall.



How To Practice Playfulness

So, how can use this Halloween season to get back in touch with your playful side?

Here are some amazing ways to get the giggles going:

  1. First, get back in touch with your inner child. Close your eyes and remember your favorite Halloween. What were you wearing? What candy were you eating? What games were you playing? See yourself laughing. Sense in your heart the pure joy of your inner child. And then ask her/him, “Inner child, what should I be for Halloween this year?”
  2. You might think your inner child is dead, but I promise, the moment you engage her with curiosity and reverence (rather than shame), she’ll be immediately resurrected, and be bubbling with ideas.
  3. 2.Go to a costume store with a friend and try on the most ridiculous costumes you can find. Go beyond cowboys and superheroes. Why not be a sushi roll? Or a bearded elephant?  Try on the weirdest things you can find, and create ridiculous accent and voices to match your character. Tell your friend a story about your costume, and act out all your superpowers. Don’t shy away from the bizarre, and remember to take pictures.
  4. Whatever costume you choose, try wearing it in public on a day that’s not Halloween. Greet strangers, and pretend to have a normal conversation with them. Relish in the awkwardness of this moment, and be liberated by letting go of your need to make everyone comfortable all the time.
  5. Go reverse trick-or-treating.  Make some ridiculously delicious dessert, and hand deliver it in your costume to your neighbors, friends, and family. Spend time with them reminiscing on your favorite Halloween memories and the ghost stories that still show up in your dreams.
  6. Mastermind some glorious pranks. I love to mix some skittles into a bowl of m&m’s and watch people’s reactions when they stuff a handful in their mouths. My friend once put chicken stock behind my shower head, so I smelled like chicken soup for 3 days straight. What’s your move?

Alright, time to get giddy my friends! And please spread the joy by sharing pictures of your costumes in the comments below!

Happy Halloween!

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