Tag Archives: play

The Playground of the Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

To share laughter is to connect with Soul. ~~ Alison Stormwolf

012Play is a great way to connect with others. Laughing and having fun not only helps us to bond more deeply with other people, but also to enter a deeper understanding and connection with our own soul. Laughter unlocks our resistance and releases inhibitions, thus opening us to close connections that might not arise without this mutual joy.

The soul craves connection. It wants to be understood, heard, and embraced by those who can appreciate and honor it—oneself, especially, but close family and friends as well. Only then can the soul itself play. It wants the freedom to revel in whatever elicits its joy, experiencing every aspect of fun and elation that life has to offer. However, as we all know, there are times when life could not offer less fun. Those are the times when a playful connection with our own soul and others’ is most distant, yet most vital.

Just like any playground, the human condition can create bumps and bruises amidst the fun and laughter. Yet even in the worst of times, it is often our ability to see the humor in our situation that allows us to muddle through it. Finding joy in the midst of darkness allows us to soften the impact of life’s challenges and open us to the possibilities that something good could come from our pain. The key is to understand yourself well enough to know when you need a good dose of fun, or when laughter will be your own best medicine.

Exercise

What is fun to you? Stop right now, and list ten things that you do or could do on a regular basis that would be fun. How difficult is it to create this list? Who do you have the most fun with in your life? How often do you spend time with these people? Who would you invite into your personal playground if you could?

What relaxes you? Stop, and list ten leisure 12 Dec pic2activities that you do on a regular basis. How difficult is it to create this list? Who do you relax with the most? How often do you take time to relax with those who make it easy for you to do so?

Answering these questions will help you to create your soul’s playground. By identifying what and who helps you strengthen your recreational branch of health, and by committing to doing what enhances it, you will give your soul reason to sing. You will also enhance its evolution.

No one can deny that they feel the most radiant and alive when they have had a good dose of pure fun. Our driven culture often dismisses and even denies how important simple joy is to our health, yet the lack of it drives many of our vices and unhealthy behaviors. The reality is, if we tuned into our inner joy more often—regardless of our daily struggles— our soul health would be much brighter. Instead, we keep losing sight of the inner light and are frantically searching for other ways to soothe our discomfort.

What do you need in order to commit to joy?

 

  (To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at          www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

 

Joyful Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

06 June picI have long lost track of how many people have entered my psychotherapy office bringing with them their sorrows, but leaving behind any sense of joy. They have lost their enjoyment and feel as if their zest for life has completely disappeared. When asked, few can say what used to make them smile, let alone remember the last time they really laughed. When I ask what they do for fun, the all-too-common answer is “nothing.” Certainly, when people are anxious, depressed, grief-stricken, stressed, or in any other state of turmoil, their experiences of joy are rare. But reacquainting with what brings them joy is guaranteed to free them from the gravity of any challenging circumstance or situation.

Our soul is nothing without joy. Without joy we are void of all light that reminds us why we live. In times when the human condition has us in its darkened grip, our experience of joy is less tangible, and so is our connection with our soul. We cannot see as clearly how to make decisions that suit our wisest ally, and we often go further off track rather than closer to our inner wisdom. Consequently, it’s not unusual for people who are distressed to report that they no longer know who they are, as their despair further disconnects them from their soul.

Our sense of joy—or lack of one—, thus, serves as another measure of our soul health. Our sense of joy is much like the pilot light for our inner ally—as long as it is lit we are still experiencing at least some pleasure in life and are able to tolerate the darker sides of the human condition. However, when that light is dim or snuffed out, nothing seems to matter—not even oneself. Therefore, awareness of what brings us joy is of utmost importance to our overall health. Essayist Logan Smith notes, “If you are losing your leisure, look out; you may be losing your soul.” Indeed, our souls do define us; and if we don’t listen to them, we will never find our way back home to this inner ally. More tragic is the risk of losing who we really are.

Joy stems both from the fun and leisure we create06 June pic2 in our lives and from the meaning we place on the activities we choose for recreation. Individual recreational needs may differ as widely as the people on the planet do. What we all have in common, though, is that fun and leisure not only buffers the unpleasant aspects of our human condition, but also fortifies or feeds the soul.

The recreational branch of soul health relates to both the fun and the leisure we allow, invite, or create in our lives. There is a difference between the two, though. We experience fun through “acting playfully”—reacting in a light-hearted, humorous, or jesting manner —at home, work, or social situations. Leisure time, however, allows us to find respite from our responsibilities—personal and professional—which usually represent the heavier aspects of our human condition. Both fun and leisure are necessary in fortifying our soul and promoting its evolution.

Unfortunately, most people don’t make or take time for fun and leisure. In a 2010 survey, an online travel agency found that only 38 percent of Americans use all of the vacation time they were allotted. This may not be surprising, given the standards for long hours of work in this country; however, the physical and emotional cost may outweigh the praise we get for the long hours worked. In fact, there is often a direct impact on physical health when people don’t take time to relax. One researcher found that people who don’t take time to slow down from daily life may find it harder to relax in the future since the neural pathways that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it increasingly more difficult to shift to less stressful states of being. This demonstrates that our bodies are indeed restored when we are at rest or at play—and that this is necessary in sustaining our well-being.

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

 

Learning to Play Again

Our soul needs fun in order to thrive. It not only helps to heal the challenges of the human condition, it also enhances our overall experience of life. Despite the vast amount of research that exists related to the positive benefits of fun and leisure, most adults neglect this essential part of soul health.

march nwsThe recent NASA video of the International Space Station’s “Ape Invasion” (if you haven’t seen it, take a look!) makes the hilarious point that even in the most serious of situations, sometimes you just have to play around and laugh. When I first saw the clip on the news, my mind had a difficult time wrapping my head around what was happening. Finally, I laughed out loud, paused to ponder how NASA allowed these antics, then silently praised them for endorsing the fact that sometimes we need to step out of our serious roles as adults to simply have a little fun. If I were stuck in a 373 square foot metal capsule that was 220 miles above the earth’s surface for a year, you can guarantee that I’d be getting into a bit of mischief just to keep me sane.

But why don’t we invest in some good, healthy play onmarch nws2 a regular basis while still on earth? Most recreational activities that adults engage in involve some sort of competition. However, research shows that these types fun aren’t nearly as therapeutic as having a simple, but hardy, laugh.

Could you list 10 things you do just for the sake of fun? Are these regular activities or ones you engage in once in a blue moon? When was the last time you had one of those laughs that left you with tears streaming down your face and sore stomach muscles that lingered for days? Do you prioritize fun into your day or week—or are you like most people who put leisure off until you are so stressed out and tired that you can’t enjoy it?

march nws3As part of learning to feed your soul in 2016, I would like to not only give you permission to integrate more fun and leisure in your daily life, I would also like to challenge you to do it and see how much better you feel. As I say in my book, “Fun feeds the soul, and without it our inner light will die.” To take my “Feed Your Soul with Fun” challenge as you learn to play again, begin by watching the following video.

Soul Health and the Super Bowl

What do the Super Bowl and the Soul have in common?

People not only feed their bodies with “bowl” food during this iconic football game, but they also feed their souls with a hearty helping of fun.  An essential ingredient to our overall soul health relates to the Recreational Branch of health in my Soul Health Model.  Without fun and leisure, our lives would be malnourished.

But when does fun go too far?  And when does competition get in the way of our overall health?  Watch my vlog to learn the difference, then get to work in creating more fun and laughter in your own life to enhance your radiant health!

For more information about soul health and aligning with spirit for radiant living, go to www.drkatherinetkelly.com.

From Zen to Zany: Learning to Feed Your Soul for Optimal Health in 2016

000 Soul Health ModelI’ve been doing holistic psychotherapy, wellness education, and health promotion for over 25 years. The biggest challenge I hear when working with others is that very few people know 1) how to really feed their soul and nourish themselves at a deep level, 2) what to do to relax and fully restore themselves, and 3) what activities cause them to laugh enough to really have fun. Work and no play is always a formula for feeling unwell, whether emotional, physical, or other branches of health are affected, but now is the time to learn how to truly nourish oneself at the deepest level—the soul level. This knowledge will help you both to withstand whatever storms life brings your way, but also allow yourself and your soul to evolve in such a way that there is no going back.

Ask yourself:  What do I do to relax? ZenWhat specific activities take away the stressors of the day? Are these healthy behaviors—or vices that only temporarily distract you from the source of discomfort?

Although some may know what it takes for them to really unwind, few actually take the time to engage in these activities due to perceived time constraints, guilt, and the tendency to care for others before one cares for themselves. Learning to soothe your soul with restorative activities ensures not only a less stressful life, but also more optimal and radiant health.

DSC_0059AFor instance, simply pausing to take some slow, deep breaths can immediately decrease your heart rate, blood pressure, and overall sense of stress. Practicing meditation, journal-writing, and gentle movement such as yoga, tai chi, and mindful walks around the block can clear the mind, increase optimism, and improve your immune system. Doing creative activities such as painting, drawing, gardening, and decorating provide a mini “mental-vacation” so that you can become more peaceful and centered. Any “zen-like” activity will help you to feel more balanced, but finding the right one for you makes all the difference in guaranteeing your optimal soul health.

On the other hand, it’s also essential to learn how to have fun—and more importantly, Zanyhow to give yourself permission to do so! Countless times, I’ve heard that people feel guilty for taking time to play and laugh, noting that there’s too much to do to allow oneself to let loose and enjoy some good-hearted fun. Many also say that they don’t know how to allow fun and leisure into their busy day or week, neglecting to prioritize playful activities in lieu of the long list of responsibilities. However, there is clear evidence that fun, laughter, play, and all jovial goings-on have an undeniable, positive impact on radiant health.

rollercoasterFor instance, when was the last time you did something that was out of the ordinary? What was it that made you laugh to the point of tears in the last few months—year—or longer? Are you afraid of how you will appear if you do something that is fun to you?

Now, remember how you felt after you took time to relax and restore—and how much more energetic and light-hearted you felt after a good laugh. Reminding yourself of the results of allowing yourself to be both “zen” and “zany” will instill a restorative nature to your approach to the year—one that is crucial in paving your path to optimal living.

Take the time now to jot down a few things related to fun and leisure that you would like to incorporate into your life. Then, pull out your calendar to identify times in which you can most effectively integrate these activities into day-to-day living. By learning to feed your soul, you will undoubtedly enhance your overall sense of well-being, as well as improve your soul health.

Join me in this year, From Zen to Zany, and create your deepest sense of radiant health yet!

 

Fun, Leisure, and the Soul

(Taken from Chapter 12 of Soul Health:  Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living)

DSC_0055 one stepResearch shows that people who don’t take time off for vacations are at higher risk for serious health conditions and also shortened life spans.  The Framingham Heart Study, likely the most comprehensive ongoing research on the development of heart disease, has followed twelve thousand men for over a decade to see if there are ways to improve both health and longevity.  The study found that people who took frequent breaks or vacations from work tended to live longer.  A survey done in the state of New York indicated that men who took annual vacations reduced their risk of death by 20 percent, while those who had taken no vacation within the preceding five years had the highest incidence of heart disease than any other men surveyed. The positive impact of leisure time is unquestionably good for mental as well as physical health.  A study of women who took frequent vacations showed that they were less likely to become depressed, anxious, or fatigued, and they also reported less stress at home. Overall, leisure time consistently shows positive enhancement of health.  Not only does time away from everyday stressors allow us to reconnect with ourselves, but there is clear evidence that intentionally planning leisure time into our lives promotes creativity, staves off burnout, recharges our batteries (both physically and mentally), promotes overall well-being, improves higher performance and productivity once back at work, and strengthens the bonds between people outside of work. Fun—our ability to let loose and play— is highly under-rated among adults.  As our responsibilities increase, our pursuit of fun decreases, often drastically.    And the longer we go without this pleasure, the less we seem to think it is a priority.  Even so, how many people do you know who fantasize over working more versus playing more?   It seems that even when we wish for more fun and time to play, we often don’t make a point of creating this in our lives. DSC_6888 Biologically speaking, fun does more than soothe the soul.  When we engage in playful activities, our serotonin level—the substance balanced by a typical antidepressant—boosts instantaneously.  In addition, our stress hormones drop, our endorphins—the natural pain killers—increase, and sometimes adrenaline rises, too, which boosts our energy levels.  If that isn’t enough proof that fun is good for our health, then consider that vicarious enjoyment—just watching others play or laugh—is also enough to boost these chemicals. Laughing at yourself also helps with managing difficult experiences within the human condition.  This self-directed joviality has been shown to lighten our perception of stressful events and allows us to maintain a level of resilience in the midst of life’s battles.  We cannot deny the issues that need work in life, but the research does offer hope for a healthier life when we can think of the events of everyday life as manageable.  In other words, when we find humor in the human condition, we can heal many aspects of our soul health. Despite the positive effect of pure fun and leisure, many people nevertheless either avoid them or think they are unworthy of joy or unable to experience it.  Unfortunately, they often turn to unhealthy substitutes such as alcohol, other drugs, over-spending, sex, gambling, or any other vice that may temporarily numb their stress.  The problem with these substitutes is that they always negatively affect other branches of soul health.  These substitutes for joy further disconnect people from their soul, often while actively damaging the health of other branches.  This can create a vicious cycle; they dig themselves further into the ditch of ill soul health, only to continue seeking false relief through one of their vices. The ability to recognize that your recreational branch of health needs work takes honesty and courage, given that the work may go against what you were taught a child.  If your caregivers were workaholics, overachievers, or simply naysayers about fun, your sense of self-worth may influence you to follow in their footsteps.  If your parents weren’t playful or fun, you may not have learned to integrate it into your own life.  But, no matter what the reason, if you don’t feel you have enough fun and leisure in your life, you probably don’t.

(To read further, purchase Soul Health: Aligning With Spirit for Radiant Living at www.drkatherinetkelly.com, www.amazon.com, or www.barnesandnoble.com)

A Confession of Fun: How Play Enhances Soul Health

I’m embarrassed to admit what you’re about to read….. I forgot the importance of play. Literally and figuratively.

Sunshine for your soul quoteYears ago, I said that my first book would be about adult play. From early in my life, I observed that the adults around me didn’t have enough fun. They balked at the idea of being goofy, avoided laughing just for the sake of laughing, and undoubtedly worked far more than they played. Somehow we got the idea that we were lazy or irresponsible if we allowed joy into our lives. Instead, we’ve instilled guilt into those who choose to enjoy fun and leisure and came to believe that those who “indulge” in too many joyful activities are behaving badly through such reckless use of time.

This awareness stimulated my mission to write a book about how adults need to have more fun in order to live more radiant lives. I did presentations in graduate school about the importance of play, I bought Play Dough and Slinkys for workshop participants, and I read all of the research I could find on the positive benefit of fun and leisure on our physical and emotional health. I did what I could at the time to illuminate the fact that fun was a key aspect of our everyday experience as humans—one that is healthy and also second nature for anyone experiencing the human condition.

Then I got busy. And I got stressed. Life took over, and throughout the completion of graduate school as well as in the early years of my career, the notion of sending the message of fun got lost… just like in most adults. I forgot my mission.

Branch with border

Even when I was creating my “whole” health model, the fun and leisure branch of  health was overlooked until I had a conversation with a client about the different aspects of wellness. In the middle of the session, it dawned on me that the branch that I had once so strongly endorsed had been swept to the shadows. Right at that moment, I realized why the system felt incomplete, and soon after the final link of the soul’s influence on each aspect of our existence clicked as well.  Our soul—the voice of our inner truth—rules our lives so much that it seemed inadequate to call the model anything other than The Soul Health Model.  Fun completed the model and raised it to the level of evolution instead of remaining an inessential element of the human condition.

Sick Tree aka SoulAFun feeds our soul, and no one can convince me that the healthiest person on earth omits this essential ingredient from their lives. In fact, I would go as far as to say that humor saves lives.  Research is clear that laughter decreases stress, helps us fight illness, improves our outlook on life, and much more. Without the nourishment of fun, our souls can starve, wither, and most definitely lose that radiance that is an inherent right for all of us. But with healthy and frequent doses of this elixir of life, we can remain buoyant even when life tries to dunk us under.

I’m curious—have you forgotten fun? What do you do for to play? What feeds your soul? Are you lacking humor? How do you use laughter to lighten even the heaviest situation? When was the last time you intentionally scheduled fun into your life?

I would love to hear from you and also hear any specific stories of the use of laughter that show the powerful healing that can take place when you have allowed yourself a good dose. Email me at evolve@drkatherinetkelly.com. I plan to compile a list of “reminders” for others who have forgotten their own way down the fun and leisure path.