Today on the blog I am delighted to introduce to you our amazing guest Jill Barber.   I am inspired by Jill’s love of life, health,  yoga and movement. She’s a yogi, cyclist and skier in addition to a being a fantastic speaker and mentor for other women.  Jill shares how engaging in play enhances every area of our lives.


How long has it been since you had a play date? (Not for your kids, but for YOU!) In our culture we pride ourselves on our work ethic. But seriousness doesn’t make us more efficient or more effective. That’s why this month I’m sharing ways to fully embrace the fun side of life and nourish your play ethic.

“Having fun is not a diversion from a successful life; it is the pathway to it.” ~Martha Beck

Play releases inhibitions, boosts creativity, reduces stress, increases energy, improves mood and even enhances brain function. When you consider all these benefits, it makes perfect sense that:

Play = Recreation = The act of creating anew.

Play is renewal at all levels. It gets us out of our heads and into our hearts. We knew this instinctively as children, so why don’t we make play a priority anymore?

We don’t engage in true play

It can be easy to interpret feeling good as play, but they aren’t synonymous. “Getting things accomplished” can feel good, but that doesn’t make it play.  For example, is cleaning your house really that fun? Or is it having a clean house that feels good?

True play is focused on the actual experience, not on accomplishing a specific outcome. There doesn’t need to be any point to the activity when you play. What if the point was simply to enjoy yourself?

We view play as “frivolous”.

Our schedules are packed with career and family obligations. Even little diversions seem, well, like a step away from the ultimate goal. That’s the point of play! (See above.)

Last year, even the company where I work part-time acknowledged the importance of play – they opened an “employee lounge” in every facility. When I go into the office, I tend to get super-focused. So at first, I poo-pooed the employee lounge idea as a “Google-wanna-be” gimmick.

But it didn’t take long for me to become a regular “lounge lizard”. At any time, I know I can step away from my desk to enjoy a few minutes of ping-pong, pool, shuffle board, darts, Wii, various board games or my personal favorite –  a super-challenging jigsaw puzzle!

Adding play time exercises a different part of my brain. I always return to my desk with a fresh perspective, and it sure makes the day go fast!

We make play wait.

Fun becomes the reward, only after our “to-do” list is complete. I know this one all too well.  As a recovering “queen of delayed gratification”, fun was always last on my agenda.

Fortunately, with the help of my coach, I recognized that what I really wanted in my daily life was the feeling of being on vacation. (Anybody else with me???) So I started to release needless planning and seriousness, and introduce more play and uncertainty. It worked! I began to feel free, at ease, spontaneous.

Now I randomly add play to my day – every day – whether I think I need it or not. On some days my play even comes first, as my inspiration.  Sheer madness!!!

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” ~ Ralph-Waldo Emerson

Learning to embrace and allow play into my life on a daily basis also led to an unexpected turning point for me physically.  After years of feeling stifled every time I had the urge to yawn, I am finally able to take a full deep breath again.


So, how about it? Are you ready to live – and breath – more freely? If so, here are some easy ways to play every day (and quite a few opportunities for extra “Play Ethic” credit!)

  • Smile. Your facial muscles connect to the emotional center in your brain. Play makes you smile. It works in reverse, too. Smiling brings the benefits of play!
  • Visit a playground. Swing, go down the slide, climb the money bars. (Extra credit if you do it in heels…carefully!)
  • Make the best of it. Turn the mundane into a game. When you are in the grocery store predict how many people you pass will be checking their phone. Or guess the how many times someone will say “um” in a long meeting. See how accurate your predictive powers become!
  • Buy yourself a toy. Something just for you. Here’s my pick: Playable Art Ball
  • Tap into your senses. Pause to notice what you feel, hear, smell, taste, see.  (Extra credit for doing this on a nature walk!)
  • Embrace color. Wear a splash of red, write with a purple pen or choose a bright mug for your coffee or tea.  Add flowers, a touch of whimsical art or perhaps the the toy I suggested above to your desk.
  • Ditch your work-out. Replace a session at the gym with pure play: beach volleyball, a snowball fight, jumping in leaves, picking flowers, hula-hoop, gardening, etc.
  • Crank your tunes. Use your favorite app to create a play playlist of all your favorites. (Extra credit if you dance!)
  • Create a silly walk. (Thanks John Cleese!) Yep, I have one (my husband does it, too.) We call it “being funny”. Lightens me up every time.

Pick one activity and do it today. No excuses, at the very least you have time to smile!!

Let us know what you experience in the comments below. And most of all, have FUN!!

 Meet Jill…

Jill Barber helps over-committed, professional women find the time and energy to live more healthful, vibrant and satisfying lives. After redefining her own career path, Jill’s mission is to wipe out corporate burnout one unfulfilled nine-to-fiver at a time. As a speaker and mentor, Jill shows her clients how to create clear priorities and map out a personal schedule, so they spend less time working and more time living. She is a native Minnesotan and nature lover who embraces outdoor activity in every season. Learn more about Jill’s upcoming events and programs at

2 comments to “9 Easy Ways to Nourish your Play Ethic by Guest Blogger Jill Barber”

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  1. Ellen - Jan 31, 2015 Reply

    Love it! Too much work lately – need to play some more!

    • Kat

      Kat - Feb 11, 2015 Reply

      Indeed Ellen, PLAY MORE!

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