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Power of Play

Key Takeaways

  • Play is the ultimate portal to plasticity.

  • Play allows us to explore different outcomes in a low-stakes environment.

  • The “Tinkerers” of the world maintained a strong sense of play throughout their life

  • The State of playfulness gets you to play BEST, even in competitive scenarios.

Resources Mentioned

  • Spark by John Ratey

  • Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety by Charlie Hoehn

Play and the Brain

  • Play is Homeostatically Regulated. – If we’re restricted from playing for a certain amount of time, we need more play. Needs to remain in balance

  • Play releases natural opioids from the periaqueductal gray (PAG)

  • The prefrontal cortex sees and explores many different possibilities of how to interact with our environment while in a state of play.

  • Beneficial social play involves low amounts of epinephrine (adrenaline).

  • Play is the most powerful portal to neuroplasticity. BDNF is deployed in play.

  • Epinephrine and adrenaline suppress our ability to play.

  • Novel forms of movement open the portal to plasticity. Engage the vestibular system – balance.

Childhood Play Evolution

  • The Baby Brain -we need things delivered to us

  • Toddlers – Everything is MINE

  • Young children – Children go from self-centered play to sharing and cooperative play.

  • 10-14 years old peak time for development and play identity

Playful Mindset

  • By entering new situations, you’re working out your brain. Novelty increases plasticity.

  • Play allows us to explore different outcomes in a low-stakes environment.

  • Observing how you and others react to situations while playing forms how we interact in the world. Are you/they Cheating? Rigid in the rules? Sad if you lose?

  • These observations help you understand yourself and others. We discover our proficiencies through play

  • “Play is about testing, experimenting, and expanding the brain’s capacity”

  • Adults and children establish their roles and form hierarchies through play.

Play Postures

  • Eye contact with a lowered down head. We make ourselves smaller and less intimidating. We limit power deliberately

  • Head tilted with eyes open is the universal play posture. Might raise eyebrows and purse lips

  • Most extreme play – eyes wide open tongue out.

Adulthood Play

  • Animals that engage in play for the longest amount of time have the largest neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change

  • Famous Physicist Richard Feynman was a lifelong tinkerer with a playful spirit. Something he worked very hard to maintain throughout his adulthood.

  • 0-25 y/o we learn things through passive exposure because our nerve cells are overconnected.

  • 40% of these interconnections are gone after age 25. It’s the removal of incorrect connections and the strengthening of remaining connections.

  • Through the process of play, we become and adjust who we are as adults.

  • Neurochemical substrates created by trauma shuts down play circuits. By engaging in play as adults, we can re-open these substrates.

  • We are built to play. Play circuits remain in adulthood.

Personal Play Identity

  • 4 Factors determine our play identity

  • How you play – competitive, cooperative, leader, follower?

  • Your personality

  • Sociocultural and environment

  • Economics and technology


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