For an ongoing collaboration between GOOD Morning Wilton and Trackside Teen Center, Trackside’s Executive Director Lori Fields, LCSW will contribute periodic columns to GMW about community wellness and engagement, mental health, Wilton teens and programming at Trackside. She’ll offer simple stories and inspired ideas to help us stay ‘on track’ to living a life that feels deeply satisfying and uniquely ours. Fields has a background in researching human behavior and potential.
Spring is here, as evidenced by the blooming flowers, my daughter’s incessant pestering each morning to ‘please can I wear shorts to school’, the birds singing their little heads off (I feel like I live in a treehouse), and the deafening peeping of our pond frogs in full chorus mode late into the night and early morning. I’m going to need a more powerful white noise machine!
Alas, a new season offers us a rich opportunity to take stock of what’s working well and what’s weighing heavy. This simple practice can even be applied daily, for those wanting a more aggressive wellness practice.
Whether you take stock daily, by the season, or in some other time frame, in my private coaching practice I always encourage my clients to put a name to the season they’re currently in and then prioritize accordingly. This works well in business too.
Different seasons often call for different priorities.
This season, I’d like to encourage you to consider the power of play, something especially challenging when the world around us feels heavy.
Just this morning I hugged my daughter extra tight as she shared “not feeling well” after hearing about the school shooting in Nashville.
It’s been difficult to finish writing this column because in the midst of many recent tragedies in our town, I wrestled with how significant is it to share about the power of play?
I’ve circled around this question a hundred times these past few days.
What I’ve decided is, I believe it matters.
Recently, our staff at Trackside was involved in a pretty silly group text exchange. It started when one of our high school leaders showed us the updated flyer he created for our Late Night @ Trackside program. He figured the fish was getting a little tired of holding the bass guitar so he swapped it out for a tenor sax — a clear move of playfulness on his part.
Trackside’s Programming Rockstar John Priest, unsurprisingly, initiated the first bad (or arguably, good) fish pun. Something about it being a ‘bass’ practicing its ‘scales.’
Not to be outdone and just for the ‘halibut’, I quickly Google, “top fish puns” and deep dive into the group banter that proved difficult to reel in.
Priest ‘shellfishly’ hogged the thread. I was ‘floundering’ to keep up. We all got sore ‘mussels’ from laughing so hard.
Playfulness. A welcome relief that’s good for the ‘sole’.
(Holy Mackerel, it’s hard to stop!)
It helped create a new flyer. It helped us reimagine the look and feel of our website.
It’s how this video, below, got made:
Playfulness is baked into the fabric of our daily culture at Trackside, something I’ve been especially grateful for lately.
I’m more of a feelings-over-fact kind of person, but research (my own and on a broader scale) shows that playfulness offers significant benefits and just a little bit goes a long way.
It helps alleviate tension, lower stress, and elevate mood. It allows us access to enhanced states of creativity, imagination, intelligence, and relief.
We know this inherently as young children, we learn through play. It’s encouraged, until we reach a certain age, usually early adolescence, and then the message changes.
The new message? We need to get serious, work hard, and stay disciplined if we’re hoping to get what we want from life. There’s little time for silliness and slacking off if we’re expecting to succeed.
A strong message, but one worthy of reconsideration.
Turns out, being silly — something I can remember getting in trouble for at the dinner table when I was a kid — is actually like a superfood that allows us to enter into a powerful internal state, one that’s healthier and better for us than when we’re too rigid, serious, and overly stressed.
Perhaps silliness is something to take seriously.
Our playful group text exchange (thankfully we have them on a regular basis) brought laughter, lightness, and relief not only in the moment but helped me return to my work in a happier state. The value of this is no small thing.
When times are tough and we’re intensely focused on and worried about getting to a better place, it’s easy to devalue making time for play.
I’d urge you to reconsider, as the cost of not allowing for play wreaks havoc on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being. I’d argue it makes everything about our lives harder than it has to be.
That’s something to take seriously when it comes to the example we set for our children.
In difficult moments, whether at work or on the homefront, I’ve always achieved a better outcome as a result of my willingness to lighten up rather than taking things so seriously and being so hard on myself.
Although outwardly it may look otherwise, this is something I have to practice regularly. It’s strange how, as humans, it can be such a struggle to allow for what we have a hunch will help.
Whatever you want for yourself this season, I’d encourage you to allow for a little more play.
If it proves difficult, stop over and see us at Trackside, or consider starting your own silly group chat — just for the halibut. It might prove surprisingly rewarding in a myriad of ways.
Trackside Teen Center is hosting its annual ’80s Night fundraiser on Saturday, April 29. For more information visit the Trackside Teen Center website.