How To Play

Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves

There are only three possible ways to spend our time and energy. We can only work, rest, or play.

We work to produce things of value. We rest to recharge our bodies and minds. We play just for the fun of it.

Ideally, we should spend about one-third of our awake time doing each of these. But our culture is so busy that many people have forgotten how to play.

I could bore you by seriously discussing all this in great detail, but let's play instead!

Check out these examples. We'll start by looking at play we can "squeeze in" while working.


On your way to and from work: Tune to the silliest radio station and imagine doing such silly things yourself later that day at work or at home.

During work hours: Turn routine activities into games like wastebasket basketball.

Alone, working on a busy project: Imagine what would happen if you did the whole project exactly wrong and showed it to your boss or coworkers that way (with a backup that was done right to protect yourself, of course). Consider actually doing it sometime!

With others, working on a busy project: Exaggerate how hard all of you are working. Say things that make fun of how seriously all of you have been taking it. ("This whole company would go broke if we bought these paper clips from the wrong vendor!")

While eating: Play with the food in your mouth. Experiment by mixing various tastes in new ways.


While bored: Surf the Internet. Read a humorous book. Return to a favorite vacation spot mentally. (If you tell your boss your assignments are done you will be protected if you get caught doing these things!)


Doing the dishes: Notice the different tones each dish makes when it hits the other dishes and silverware. Or mentally note the deepest and the highest tones that happen naturally while you finish.

Yard work: Pay attention to the patterns as you cut the grass. Experiment with circles and ovals and triangles and such. Decide which way is most enjoyable when you want to take your time.

Doing the bills: Play with different handwriting styles. If you are a man, aim at making your signature look like a woman's. Play with a handwriting style that conveys authority, or is childlike.

Fixing food: Eat whatever you want regardless of all other factors at least once a week. When you are bored with a meal, think about what you'll eat the next time you eat whatever you want.

Doing the laundry: Sacrifice an old white cloth by putting it with the colored clothes just to see if you can predict what shade it will be when the laundry is done.


Doing the dishes: Have a special box where both of you always put disposable glassware. Once a month or so, take turns smashing them right after you are done with the dishes. Call it your "Third Tuesday of the Month Smashathon." (Protect your eyes.)

Yard work: See who can come up with the most bizarre idea about how to use a corner of your property. Then ask yourselves whether you might want to actually do it.

Doing the bills: Think together about silly notes you could include in each envelope to make the person who opens it take special notice of your payment. Then do it!

Fixing food: Each person fixes the same meal at the same time, but one of you - "the experimenter" - can secretly add any flavor they want to their creation. See if you ever like the experimental dish better. Throw it away if you don't.

Doing the laundry: Have a battle with your lover, throwing the warm laundry from the dryer. Notice how great if feels on your skin! [I was stumped here. So this idea came from a reader.]


Have playful, experimental, silly, exciting, intense sex, alone or with your partner. (This is the most important way adults play.)

Go to a new city and walk around with no intention other than to explore and experience it as it is. Say "Hi" to each person you meet just to notice their reaction.

Go to a comedy club expecting to laugh. Don't notice or comment on the jokes that fall flat. Focus on the ones that work for you.

Print a bunch of pictures of yourself and your friends. Make changes in them to see how each person would look blond, bald, with a mustache and beard, if their eyes were closer together, if they had a tiny or huge nose, etc. (Computer photo programs are needed for this one... or, if you can draw, you can make sketches instead.)

See what happens if you do your favorite hobby in a purposely lousy way. Photographers can take ugly shots. Dancers can stumble around. Golfers can swing wildly.



Think of all the different hobbies people have. If you don't collect stamps or bowl or golf or attend operas you probably think that those who do are just wasting their time.

No matter what kind of fun we have, we can be ridiculed. Miserable grouches will ridicule every kind of fun, and even people with a great sense of humor will think our idea of fun isn't "really" fun.

That's how having fun works. It's what makes having fun so deeply satisfying. We are being ourselves FOR ourselves, not for anyone else.

Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!


next: Knowing

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 2). How To Play, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 30, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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