When we were children, we knew how to play. Our days were fun and fearless. All over the neighborhood, versions of “Let’s pretend” and “Race you!” filled our days. Between sports and scouts, bikes and basketball, sleep-overs and swimming, we were never still.

Then we grew up. Our days are still endless. Now, however, they’re fraught with fears. Is our competition outpacing us? Is that downsizing rumor true? “Let’s pretend” has given way to constant production. Pick-up basketball is all competition, not playing just for the fun of it. The races are now only on TV.

It’s time to learn how to play again. We can’t go back to the innocence of yesterday. But, we can learn to PLAY. Since we live in a world of acronyms, let’s start with this one.

P stands for Picnic, Park, or Participation

Take your pick. In all cases, it means getting together with family – and forgetting the office. Participate in your life. Go to the local park, smell the clean air, feel green grass under your bare feet. Better yet, go to the national forest. Breathe deep, hike a trail, and use your eyes and ears to enjoy what lives there.

L stands for Leisure, Lounge Chair, or Living

The old saying of “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” That goes for Jill, too. It bears repeating what medicine has finally learned: working all the time creates stress. That, in turn, creates all manner of ailments in your mind and body. So, the trick is to relax. It’ll prolong your life.

A stands for Amusement, Animation, or Amiable

A great way of living to the fullest is to laugh. Yes, I said laugh. I don’t mean at the crude jokes and foul language that too many “comedians” rely on. I mean in the sheer pleasure of moving, doing, and living. The side effect of this is that you’ll find it easier to offer a smile to one of your colleagues. Go ahead, try it.

Y stands for Yodeling, Yearning, and Yes

When is the last time you said, “Yes” to your family? When did you last play with your kids? Does your daughter want to be on the school softball team? Go outside (leave your cell phone inside!) and throw her a few balls. Be supportive, even when she drops most of them. That’s why you’re playing with her; so that she learns to catch. She’ll also learn the value of unimpeded time with her father.

One Last Thing

Life is balance. Work is necessary for self-esteem as well as the money that gives your family the necessities. If you have enough work, you can also throw in a few luxuries.

In that balance, however, you need to play. Forget about the office for a few hours. Have a good time. Go now and play.