Health Matters with Dr. Chawla – Playschool

Most of us forget we were ever children. What’s more, we also find it difficult to see that other adults were ever children. When my father was dying of throat cancer, I remember looking at him and even wondering that he too must have been a child. I think many people feel that way about their parents at one time or another. Remember when you were in school and you believed that your teacher was only a teacher and nothing else? That she never was or could be a mom, dad, sister, brother, etc. It was hard to see him or her in any context other than being in a classroom, let alone that they must have experienced childhood. As we get older, childhood can becomes a distant memory.

For some people, childhood isn’t worth remembering because it wasn’t the promise of wonderful experiences. For others, it was a time of wonder and creative experiences. For some, childhood is very magical. For me, I certainly experienced a lot of magic, figuratively and literally. Figuratively because it was a time of carefree learning and exploring. Literally, because in my later childhood I learned to become a magician. I love magic and, I think, so do many adults. Magic and illusions take us back to a childlike state – something we as adults don’t often experience regularly. Children, on the other hand, inherently know how to suspend their disbeliefs. Another magician once told me that it is harder to trick kids. If you cut and restore a rope they actually believe it’s possible, because they do this in their imaginary world. They know how to “make believe.” They know how to play. Children have a carefree air about them. However, as they age, they become more responsible and, with that, their imagination becomes entangled with rules and explanations. This, in turn, crowds or drowns the creative side. It becomes more difficult to be happy or carefree.

As children transform into adults it seems harder to maintain that carefree nature because “life gets in the way.” We become stifled with our responsibilities and forget how to breathe the air of childhood. We try to pick up or find ways to feel carefree. If you’re lucky you never lose hold of it, if you’re not so lucky you have to learn to play again. As adults we sometimes recapture that feeling when we watch a movie, go to live theatre, or watch a magic trick. But we don’t do it regularly and in unique ways. When we do, we are uplifted in that moment. Our spirit changes, albeit briefly.

That’s why I believe everyone should have a hobby… something they are truly passionate about… Something that makes them get up early in the morning to do it… Something they have trouble putting down at night so they have to go to sleep because it’s too late… My daughter doesn’t like sleeping because she says sleeping is boring… most kids are like that. Most adults are not.

Entertaining hobbies or activities help give life a spark. They ignite a drive and vitality that is contagious. The more sparks you have, the more you enjoy life and live with zeal and passion. With an ignited passion, all other areas in your life can’t help but be transformed. Your work is more enriching, as is your home life, and most importantly, your relationships. What do you do regularly to ignite the passion so you can get into a childlike state?

For the adults who may not have had a playful childhood, had a difficult one, or have merely forgotten what it was like, I encourage you to explore and try to imitate childhood enthusiasm, and get to that childlike state. Find or explore new hobbies and activities. If you can’t think of one, experiment… that’s what kids do all the time. Move away from the TV, computer, and video games and get involved. TV and computers, and even most video games, are two-dimensional, and are not interactive. You are not using most of your senses. You are not creating. You need to use all of you to experience all of you. People say to me they don’t have time to do other things, but if you truly looked at your day you would be surprised at how much of it is wasted doing non-crucial things. The average person in North America watches five hours of TV each day. Look at the time you may waste by moving a little slower on a task or between tasks. Do you ever notice how fast you get something done if you have to be somewhere at a certain time? Tighten up your day, find and shave off a few minutes each day to create something new. I guarantee you can find 30 minutes each day to do something unique and fun. If you can’t, you aren’t looking hard enough for those few lost minutes.

To make things somewhat easier, I’ve compiled a very incomplete list of things you could try… you might find something that makes you breathe like a child again.

• Try telling a joke

• Join Toastmasters/ public speaking (and you don’t need a toaster for that)

• A bike ride (don’t forget your helmet)

• Parachuting (don’t forget your diaper if you are afraid of heights)

• Hang gliding (don’t forget to take lessons)

• Sewing

• Needle point

• Grow a flower

• Try Origami

• Try some interior decorating at home or at your work space

• Juggle

• Take photos

• Write a story

• Keep a diary

• Try scrap booking

• Build a water fountain

• Build a ginger bread house

• Paint

• Sing

• Dance

• Learn a new language

• Relearn your current one

• Travel to a new territory, state, or country

• Try cooking if you don’t do it (I was surprised how much fun it can be, but eating was more fun)

• Try baking, it’s different than cooking (and more fattening)

• Make a candle

• Try a new arts and craft project

• Try sculpting

• Learn a magic trick

• Show a magic trick

• Act out a story to a child

• Try to imitate a character or actor

• Read a novel or short story

• Make a model airplane or car

• Learn chess or checkers

• Try water skiing (wear a life jacket)

• Try fishing

• Play a board game

• Try making something from wood

• Learn to use a new tool

I think instead of asking people, “Hi…. so what do you do?” it should be, “What do you love to do?” And everyone should have an answer to this: “I’m really passionate about… ”

What do you enjoy that you could get up two hours earlier than you already do because you are excited about doing it? When was the last time you woke up early because you wanted to and not because you had to? Just because you were excited about doing something unique that gave you joy?

I have a good friend who said to me, “You know, I don’t have any hobbies.” I was quick to remind him that he used to love photography and writing, and he said, “Oh yeah, with life being so busy I forgot.”

Don’t worry about succeeding. When you see young kids they very seldom know how well they are creating or imagining. They are too busy playing and exploring. They aren’t measuring their success; that’s not a prerequisite. Playing is an exploration in “doing” and being in the moment. Learn to play well alone but don’t forget to play with others. Play with your kids, play with your spouse, or play with your friends. Find your passion and create more. Learn to play. It will not only show you the creative vitality of life, but will also add a spark of magic to your life.

Dr. Lalit Chawla, MD, CCFP, FCFP

A highly sought after International Speaker, Family Physician in Chatham, Ontario, and an Adjunct Professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, Ontario.

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