All Stories

Power Play: How A Playful Mind Sets Adults Up For Success

We all know what the adage warns us about “all work and no play”: it invites dullness into our lives. Now a growing body of research suggests that there are more benefits to play than just avoiding boredom: adults who play more are more productive at work, happier in their relationships, less stressed, better at problem-solving, more youthful, and less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their less playful counterparts.

But between getting our daily endorphins up from exercise, heading out with friends, and volunteering in the community, what do we imagine play to look like as adults? According to Dr. Aleena Chia, an assistant professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University: play is an attitude, not activity.

“From a cultural-anthropology background, human play is marked by relative degrees of openness, improvisation, and pleasure, with an emphasis on the ‘relative’,” she says.

Chia, whose research focuses on the way work and play are often interwoven in the lives of people working in the tech industry, encourages us to focus on how we feel doing any activity. Rather than making time for a clear-cut category of play such as board games, sports, or word puzzles: Chia suggests focusing on developing a playful mindset.

“The important thing to take away from this definition of play is that it’s not about a distinct activity. Instead, play is a disposition towards any kind of human experience. You can do a play on words, you can approach things playfully.”

This suggests that almost any aspect of your daily life, including that morning walk to the bus stop, holds the potential for some degree of play. By hopping over the cracks or making words from the licence plates of cars that pass, you can turn your daily commute into an exercise of mindful play.

Chia acknowledges that finding and acting on that playful attitude may challenge us to look at our lives differently, but we might be delighted to discover that play is intermeshed with every aspect of our daily activities – including work.

She offers the example of computer-game testers, for whom work is “play” but who are also tasked with rigorously ensuring every section of the game is sound. “Why do they still do this work, even though it’s so hard and repetitive? Because there’s pleasure there.”

“I think it’s a mistake to try to see play as something you can isolate from everything else. The way that human experience works is that things have always been jumbled up with each other.”


Get your play on at  Science World After Dark!

We have adult evenings down to a science. There are drinks, food, and music­––and there’s always a great movie playing in the OMNIMAX® Theatre. Plenty of play for you to embark on in our glittering dome.