2020 has finally arrived, and like many, we’ve spent the last few weeks quietly reflecting on our goals and our vision for the start of this brand new year and this fresh decade. After some careful thought, we’ve decided to make “play” our word for the year. But what does that mean exactly? To us here at Alfa Charlie this means recess. Part of our creative mission focuses on human-centered design, and we realized that in order to continue bringing this lens into our work we have to allow ourselves regular, real world opportunities to explore it. We need to shake things up, reconnect with ourselves, get out from behind the screen and interact. Playtime should not solely be reserved for weekends, and so we’ve decided to blow the whistle on our regular grind and call a “digital timeout” the first Tuesday of each month to enjoy a hike, explore a museum, or show up to support the work of other creatives.
So many of history’s “serious” intellectual minds understood just how important recreation was to creativity, fulfillment and health. Ralph Waldo Emerson, famous American essayist, philosopher, and poet famously said “It is a happy talent to know how to play…” and many contemporary scientific studies have also linked relaxation to increased problem-solving and creative “a-ha moments.” One recent study conducted by psychologist Mark Beeman of Northwestern University found that people given a difficult puzzle were better able to solve it after watching a funny clip.
Even when we give our brain permission to take a break, it’s still hard at work… just in a different way. Beeman’s study found that regular playtime allowed for more neural “flexibility,” and ultimately created space for the brain to make new and exciting connections… or what we like to refer to as creative breakthroughs!
Much like meditation, play also centers us. It compels us to focus on the task at hand, ultimately requiring us to be present: something yogis and mental health gurus have sworn for centuries is the secret to balance and happiness. And while we’re on the topic of happiness — laughter, one of playtime’s best side effects and some of nature’s best medicine — helps ease stress and tension and can even improve inflammation and heart health.
The truth is, we don’t really need science or philosophy to tell us that play is good. Somewhere, all of us intrinsically recognize the benefits of healthy downtime and recreation. As children, it was as natural as breathing; it’s just that most all of us need a reminder from time to time to make sure we’re making that a regular priority. So whatever play means to you, whether it’s kicking a ball around in the park, bantering with a roommate, taking a walk, challenging your coworker to a free throw competition with the nearest wastebasket or completing a word search, we encourage you to keep doing it. This ties into Alfa Charlie’s creative mission to disconnect, spend time in nature, and get back in touch with our community every first Tuesday of the month.
Need a break? Come play with us!