by Robin Karlsson
Below is a great TED Talk I think you should attend; if only to see a polar bear playing with a fettered husky (also available on YouTube).
Dr Stuart Brown is trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, and first recognized the importance of Play by discovering its absence in the life stories of criminals. In this TED Talk he gives a brief review of the discoveries made through years of research and exploration of human and animal Play. I’ll provide you with a brief write-up of what he has to say about Play.
According to Brown, Play is a basic need for long term survival in both animals and humans. It’s not simply a rehearsal for adult activities but a separate entity with its own biological place: to refine the brain and to keep the body plastic and flexible.
He defines Play as a state in which we let curiosity lead us in exploring the possible by overriding our normal impulses in a safe environment simply because it feels good. There’s social Play, rough and tumble Play, ritual Play, spectator Play, imaginative Play, internal storytelling, improvisational Play, and more.
In rats they found that if the animals are deprived of their natural instincts to Play they may, quite literally, die pre-maturely in hiding because they lack curiosity and a will to explore and test their environment. In humans the outcome might not be quite as drastic, but lack of Play is likely to result in a lack of ‘social skills’ such as emotional regulation and the ability to read signals from other people (playfulness, fear, anger, juvenility, etc); hampered capacity for problem solving and cognitive activities; dysfunction of physicality; and depression of some sort.
So Play, Brown convincingly argues, is a basic survival mechanism that we must acknowledge throughout our lives to remain truly healthy, passionate, and creative for the sake of ourselves and those around us.
Check out the TED Talk here: