Do something without sharing it
“Social media makes it easy to buy into this notion that if you don’t post it, did it really happen? Was it important?” Ms. Sinclair said. “Sharing makes it valid.” In other words, social media can inspire people to do things for the purpose of sharing, as the platforms themselves encourage external validation. Since play is supposed to be intrinsically motivated, you might have more fun keeping it to yourself.
“It’s very important that we have moments of play all for ourselves that we don’t tell anyone about and we don’t post about,” Ms. Sinclair added. Whether it’s kneading dough in the kitchen or riding your bike around the neighborhood, next time you do something fun, don’t share the activity online. This can help you focus on the pure joy of doing something fun for yourself.
Know your play type
People play in different ways — karaoke sounds like a blast to one person and a nightmare to another. A study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences identified four categories of playful personality traits: other-directed, lighthearted, intellectual and whimsical.
Other-directed play is when you enjoy playing with other people. Lighthearted play generally means you don’t take life too seriously, and you like to improvise. Intellectual play has to do with ideas and thoughts, like wordplay and problem-solving. And whimsical players like doing odd or unusual things in everyday life.
Knowing your style can help you figure out which activities you like, but it can also help you eliminate activities that you don’t necessarily enjoy. If you like intellectual play, a dance party might not be fun for you. If you take a lighthearted approach to play, you might not enjoy long, strategic board games with your family. Of course, you can have more than one play style, so maybe you enjoy dance parties, board games, karaoke and crossword puzzles all the same.
Find micro-moments of play
Ms. Sinclair recommends leaving room for spontaneity in your calendar.
“There is something innately whimsical about being spontaneous,” she said. “Even the word sounds playful.” Schedule blocks of time throughout the week for the possibility of random playful activities. “It sounds crazy, like you’re planning to be spontaneous,” she said. “But you kind of have to as an adult.”
With this time blocked, it’s easier to say no when someone asks if you’re free for a work task or social obligation. You can decline, telling them you have something to do that night, even if you don’t know what it is yet.