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Why more play is the key to creativity and productivity
Adult recess and other apparently ridiculous activities may be one of the best ways to feel, work, and be better.
- Play is one of the primary ways that children learn.
- As we get older, however, we begin to worry more about the opinions of others. Gradually, we stop playing quite so much.
- This could be a grave mistake. Research has shown that adults who make time for play reap the benefits in terms of greater productivity, more creativity, and greater health and happiness.
Some adults with high-powered jobs aren't spending their lunch breaks meeting with clients, but are playing kickball and hopscotch instead. Still other adults are buying coloring books — not to develop a skill, but to mindlessly shade in pre-drawn lines in bright primary colors. There are even consultants whose careers are based on teaching businesses how to incorporate more playtime into the workday.
It might be tempting to dismiss this craving for play as another quirk of the ostensibly over-coddled millennial generation, but if recent research is to be believed, more playtime actually keeps us healthy and makes us more productive and creative. Unsurprisingly, humanity's natural condition isn't to stuff themselves into suits and ties and manipulate spreadsheets all day. Human beings like and need to be creative, and sometimes that creative spark needs to be nourished, even with something as apparently insane as adult recess or coloring books.
All work and no play
For many, the only thing they need to hear about play is that it feels good and is good for you. Play reduces cortisol — the hormone responsible for stress, which can increase your risk for heart disease in excess — and releases endorphins. It also helps to keep depression at bay, improves your cognitive health, and lowers the risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative conditions like dementia.
That's all well and good, but plenty of adults have reached the conclusion that they'd rather work and earn more than play more. However, there are good reasons for even the most diehard grinches to make time for play in their schedule.
Tim Brown, the CEO of the design firm IDEO explained that there's a pragmatic side to playfulness in his TED talk. "We think playfulness helps us to get to better solutions. Helps us do our jobs better and helps us feel better when we do them."
This makes sense when you consider the function of play from a developmental perspective. For the group that's typically associated with recess (children), play is a method for learning about the world. Children learn about spatial relationships, concepts and ideas, motor skills, and even social roles and interpersonal interaction through play, whether that's playing with action figures, blocks, or just a stick and some dirt. Play is fun, but its "purpose" is serious stuff; it's one of the very first ways that we go about learning. Most importantly, studies have shown that play facilitates insightful, divergent thinking — in other words, creativity.
Bring the Power of Play to the Workplace, with Jane McGonigal
Despite these benefits to well-being, learning, and innovation, many adults react to adult recess or coloring books the same way they do when a relative makes an off-color joke at Thanksgiving, even though these were perfectly acceptable activities to engage in as kids. "But as kids learn to become adults," says Brown, "they become much more sensitive to the opinions of others, and they lose that freedom and they do start to become embarrassed. And in studies of kids playing, it's been shown time after time that kids who feel secure, who are in a kind of trusted environment — they're the ones that feel most free to play."
This sense of embarrassment may be getting in the way of some serious innovation. Studies have shown that even in the workplace, play increases creativity, productivity, and group cohesion. Apparently frivolous doodling helps people to learn and remember salient details better and increases functional connections in the brain. Physical exercise and sports like kickball, for instance, have been shown to improve workplace productivity. Businesses have known about these effects for years, too. There's a reason why Google's campus is scattered with ping pong, billiards, and foosball tables. So, if a sense of shame is holding you back from making room for more play in your life, just remember: The benefits far outweigh the risks.
- How Not to Kill Creativity – Jonah Lehrer LIVE on Big Think - Big Think ›
- The flow state: What is it and how can it improve your life? - Big Think ›
- Playfulness shown to help improve mental health - Big Think ›
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.