Playfulness just for Kids? Don’t be silly
Picture it: I’m taking my morning walk and happened upon one of those speed indicator machines. You know, they flash wildly if you’re going above the posted speed limit. My thoughts raced faster than my legs could go, answering my first curious question—that walking speeds could not be monitored. Drat! That would have been fun! Then I started having a mental dialogue with the machine (what are they called anyway???) wondering if people for the most part really do slow down or whether they just ignore them since there is no real reprimand of any kind.
In the 1991 movie, “L A Story” starring Steve Martin, he refers to the above scenario as “rejoicing in the silliness of life.” This classic film is filled with humorous takes on the many nuances of life in Los Angeles such as parking meters for Libras only which as a Libra tickled my funny bone big time. My favorite segment shows weatherman Martin opting every morning to avoid traffic by driving on the sidewalk, bouncing down an ally past neighbors who routinely wave, careening through a gas station, sailing across the L A River channel and down several flights of stairs.
Think that silliness is just for children? Think again. For the past decade, researchers throughout the world have focused on the importance of silliness or playfulness. More than a dozen papers have been written by Rene Proyer, a psychologist at the University of Zurich. Her findings show that people who exhibit high levels of playfulness or silliness are often more outgoing, spontaneous, creative and fun-loving. Also, she claims folks are so much better equipped to cope with stress, to lead active lifestyles, and to succeed academically. For those looking for that special someone, researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that playful or silly behavior makes people more attractive to others.
Major corporations are recognizing the benefits of silliness by bringing playfulness into the work place. Google, Pixar, and Facebook, for examples have introduced fun-filled spaces and activities into their office environments. Life coach and best-selling author Martha Beck claims that the activities that brought us joy as children bring us joy as adults as long as we refrain from telling ourselves: “I’m adult now so I shouldn’t be doing this.”
Given this data it sounds like talking to a speed indicator machine or possibly cutting your sandwich into a smiley face are not only fun in the moment also has many long-term benefits. Fortunately I’ve been a bit silly all my life, yet reminders are always welcomed and appreciated.