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Your Soul Needs Playtime

A few years ago, when I was teaching an undergraduate seminar at Stanford on the psychology of happiness, I had the students put away their books and push their chairs to the side to play a game. Soon the students were running around, laughing with the spontaneity and joy of children. As the game drew to a close, I asked about their experience, and a beautiful 17-year-old named Jackie Rotman grinned from ear to ear and sheepishly shared, “I thought we weren’t allowed to play anymore?”What is ironic is that animals continue to play throughout their adult lives, yet we rational humans often don’t. Submerged in the responsibilities of life, the seriousness of world affairs, and the demands of work, we often forget to play at all. Like Jackie, we often believe that it is no longer allowed or that it is a frivolous waste of time.Of course, we do sneak in some play here and there. Why is it that we love to watch athletic games, go to water parks, or play sudoku? What is so fun about throwing a ball for a dog or giving toys to children? When I first told the Stanford undergraduates to move their chairs aside, …

About the Author

Emma Seppala

Emma Seppälä, PhD, is author of The Happiness Track, founder of, and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

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