“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing~” Bernard Shaw.
Playing in Montana
When was the last time you played, really played? Uplifting, invigorating, joyful, I can’t stop smiling—played? If you live in Montana, relocated to Montana, or are desperately watching Zillow for an affordable house in Montana, you know what I’m talking about. The secret has been out for a while despite local bumper stickers like “Montana is Full! But I hear Wyoming is nice.” The desire to live and play where you work turned into a targeted missile overnight, thanks or no thanks to Covid.
So, what is this obsession with Montana? It isn’t new. John Steinbeck wrote about his love for Montana. Blame it on the jaw dropping views in our national parks, accessible public lands, forests, ski resorts, lakes, and rivers…people from all over the world are drawn to it. We can’t seem to stop it. Everyone wants to play in our backyard. Even the dogs demand it. Oprah’s magazine voted Hugh Roger’s WAG Dog park with obstacles and a pond, one of the best dog parks in the USA.
The science behind the importance of playing
This law of natural attraction is backed by science. There is a strong correlation between our inner child, play, and playgrounds. It’s the power of play. Scientifically speaking, play activates our pre-frontal cortex, releases oxytocin and dopamine, the feel-good chemicals in our brain. People come to visit, feel amazing, and don’t want to leave. Play also creates empathy and long-lasting bonds with others, according to California powerhouse play researcher and creator of the Eight Play Personalities, Dr. Stuart Brown. He has studied the benefits of play on humans and animals for decades. His research cites that we are hardwired for play. Watch dogs play in fresh snow. It’s contagious. Ever watch cats play of game of chase and then hang off the curtains like their lives depend on it? Animals innately know the importance of play. Humans are just realizing it. Cue the obsession and hysteria for living in nature’s biggest playground.
The power of play
Let’s go back to the power of play. As a former play therapist turned real estate agent, I can attest to the healing powers of play for all ages. Close your eyes for a moment. Think about your favorite toy or game as a kid. Can you picture it? Was it a toy, a game, or activity? What about that game or activity drew you in and made it your favorite? Hang on to that thought. Now, drift in a different direction…think of a problem, something that is nagging or bothering you recently? Using your favorite toy or game when you were a kid…try to solve your current problem. Take your time. What comes up for you? Did you have any shifts or “ah-ha!” moments? You just participated in the power of play.
If solving your problem didn’t come easily, or you said, “This is ridiculous, play is for kids,” you might need to check in with your inner child. What activities did you love to do as a kid? Do what made you happy as a child. Go for a ski, walk, hike, run, throw a ball or frisbee, or find a quiet space in your mind. Play doesn’t have to be physical. It can be a state of mind especially for those recovering from an injury or physical challenge. Create something, work on a project, paint, play a guitar, hum, pray, or sing a Billie Eilish song. Soak in a hot tub, go for a swim, do a Tik Tok dance, get a massage, play cards, stick your toes in the sand, watch a local play or movie, ice skate, Nordic ski, do the benevolent fairy dance while folding laundry or stretch in Up or Down Dog with your dog or cat. Pets are great guides for play. My dog’s internal play clock is a loud yawn and paw on my office chair to tell me I need to get off my computer and go play. If you still haven’t solved your problem, don’t worry. Trust the process and just keep playing, it will come. For play sake, get out there and play!
(Side note: I wrote this article in between cross country skiing and playing hide and seek with my dogs. Should you be curious about which play personality best describes you, visit the National Institute for Play at nifplay.org/what-is-play/play-personalites. Dr. Brown describes all the play types in detail and gives examples of The Collector, Creator, Explorer, Kinesthete, Joker, Storyteller, Competitor, and Director. FYI: Oprah Winfrey represents a Director play personality).
Amy Olson is a former Children’s Mental Health Therapist who brings her years of family psychology and mental wellness to her real estate business. She understands the undeniable connection between home, family, and mental well-being. When Amy is not working for her clients, she is PLAYING — with her dogs, on a trail, on skis, or in the sun, on the water.
Enjoy our recently refreshed LIVE Montana…