“if you go out in the woods today” – let’s play more – R.I.P Robin Williams

Gosh we have some pithy statements I hear people bandy about play and love and health.

Go where the love is.  The family that plays together stays together.  Sounds easy doesn’t it?

We need to love ourselves first.  Part of that means embracing play (in all it’s forms) as well as work.  Play serves more than trivial purposes for human health and well being.  Yes, the links I have in here will take to you to more reading…

This seems like a simple concept and yet if we view the family as the source of that love we might be sadly mistaken.  And loving ourselves by leaving a dysfunction family environment? That seems even harder too.  What about loving ourselves by exploring the world, growing our spirit, finding peace in other cultures or by just being more open minded?

Nah! I hear the “workers” say.  “I am too busy working”, they say.  Working themselves to death? I ask quietly? Working ourselves to the point where we kill each other at home and on the roads daily?

I’m a worker.  I have worked all my life and studied and done some very hard yards in the name of work – but whatever happened to PLAY?

Play to me is not drinking games either.  Or sitting at the football with a beer and a pie and eating and drinking ourselves to death.  I mean healthy play, not self-medication in the name of play.

By all means do these things – but don’t confuse them with play that gives us a rush, a smile and happiness without unwanted side effects.   And don’t get me wrong, everything has the potential to have a side effect.  Or kill us even.

Why is it so many Australians think that this is an excuse for sedentary lifestyles that they, on one hand, whinge about, and on the other – don’t actually act to do anything about?

Many of us who suffer from depression and anxiety have “family of origin” issues.  I would posit to say that a very large amount of modern people have had trauma of some kind in our early childhood years.  Never mind the fact that humanity has had recent periods of enormous human violence in the last 60 years or so – the scale of which, with modern warfare means we kill each in greater numbers than ever before in human history.  Perhaps we have lost the ability to play and help ourselves to heal in all of that trauma?

In Australia I regularly come across depressed and anxious people who just see life as drudgery for the sole purpose of providing themselves some level of “supposed” safety for themselves and their families.

We just need to take a brief look at the family violence statistics in Australia to get a “tip of the iceberg” perspective on the hidden traumas in a supposedly “civilised society”.  The most unsafe place for woman can be in her own home with a woman a week dying at the hands of her current or former partner…Not safe at home and men are not immune to domestic violence either.  The Australian Institute of Criminology reports that 82% of assaults in the previous year were not reported to police.  The reason for this is usually because of the fear that the violence will escalate (and many of the murders of victims of domestic violence are when they are leaving or have left).

Queue the song “If you go out in the woods today…”.

Fear mongering in our media is largely responsible for us staying in violent home situations and rarely going outside.  I will apply this same analogy to overseas travel later in this piece…

Yet if you want to know about our children’s safety in Australia you could google and be told that there has been 15 children murdered by strangers or outside of their home. One of those children Sian Kingi I knew and used to see her every Friday shopping with her beautiful Mum when I worked in the local supermarket as a 17 year old.  Before she was murdered by a married couple who were looking for a virgin to rape and murder.

In 2009 it was reported that on average 25 children a week die at home at the hands of their parents in Australia.

Yet we can turn on the TV and hear all about how unsafe the outside world is for our children.

A culture of fear surrounds letting our kids go outside to play.  Obviously it’s smart to make sure your children are safe and I’m not suggesting they should roam the streets.   But what ever happened to play? Whatever happened to us getting outside and camping with our kids and playing with them?

Are we so consumed with the next mortgage or shiny car that we have forgotten to play and love another?  So many conversations you will hear “we didn’t have much, but we had fun” in older people.

I constantly hear people discussing how unsafe it is for our kids to go outside and play.  If this is the case why are we not hearing on the news how many women and children are murdered in the supposed safety of their own homes?  How many of these murders are contributed to by monetary and work stress to keep up with the joneses?

Are we supposed to stay at home and be treated like objects or pieces of furniture?  Is this the cultural message that says we must honour the family has become?

Is this why it is often so hard to go where the love is? Or to love ourselves enough to challenge ourselves to play as adults – like go out and have an adventure in the world?

Go outside and play.   The world is not going to murder us and if you are with your children, your children will be safer too.

Or we could work too hard to have a home that surrounded by razor wire because we are too scared to go outside because of the fear mongering that goes on about the outside world?  Just watch the news or some current affairs shows and you will never go outside again.

When people talk to me about my adventure travels this is sometimes how the conversations go:

Q: “Why would you go there?”

A: “Amazing place, amazing culture.  I learned heaps and learned to stop fearing the world and other people.  F.E.A.R.  False expectations appearing real”

Fear response and justification for staying miserable: “But it’s not safe, look at the Bali bombings”

According to the fear mongering in our media travel will kill you; but staying at home living a life of driving to and from work everyday won’t kill you either I ask?  1000 Australians die overseas a year but largely from accidents or illness and 25% of that or more are preventable with vaccinations and or good research before they go.  1299 a year die in fatal road accidents.  As at June 2014, 574 people have died on our roads just doing what they do everyday – driving.

Let’s add to that the highest causes of death in Australia – the top one being heart related disease with other 20 000 a year.  I don’t even want to mention the 2535 suicides in 2012.  But there you have it…

Some won’t travel because they think they will get blown up.  They won’t let the kids outside because they will be murdered and they are not playing or exercising because they are too “busy” working.  Yet our children die at home and we die at our own hands (by suicide and on the roads) and by diseases made worse by sedentary (not moving) lifestyles?

There once was a saying “the family that plays together stays together”.  It’s more than true.   Play holds more than families together.  It can hold people together and provide stress relief and relaxation that is vital to our health.

Play, silly singing, silly walks, laughter and exercise.  All as necessary as food and water.

Watch this awesome TED Talk on Play – We NEED to PLAY!!!

For me , the best quote from Stuart Brown is also the simplest “the opposite to a life without play is not work – it’s called depression”.

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