It’s been awhile, eh? It’s no secret that 2014 was a year of change for me personally and professionally.  And I’m not the only one.  In my sphere, I was witness to more death, pain and loss than I’ve ever experienced at one time.  A trusted advisor told me that over the past several years we’re all being shattered so that we can choose to rebuild ourselves in a mindful way and let go of parts of ourselves and our lives that no longer serve us.  Now is a time for reflection and thoughtful action: who do I want to be and what actions do I take to create that version of myself?

I want to be a person who embraces this life.  And to do that, I want to play.  Yes, play.

Death is so complicated, right?  I think a narrow view is that death is an ending, a final chapter.  But I choose to see it differently.  Death is a sad, but necessary wake up call to remind us that time on Earth is precious. It’s a time to think – if I died today, what would people say about my life?  I choose to view the death of my parents as the beginning of a new chapter.

So what does play have to do with mental health?  EVERYTHING!  In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown shares guideposts for wholehearted living. Guidepost #7 offers the suggestion of cultivating rest and play in opposition to using productivity for self-worth and using exhaustion as a status symbol. Do you relate to the internal drive to check things off the to-do list as a measure of how much worth you have at any given time? This IS an exhausting way to live and I refuse to buy into this message any longer! Who’s gonna join me? Giving yourself time to play can lower stress, boost creativity, challenge the mind, improve connections and increase energy! (Check out this short piece by Brené!)

When I think of playful musicians, Sia is at the top of the list.  She came into my awareness through a patient at Harborview Recovery Center when I was interning there in 2009.  We were doing a music group where I asked patients to share a song that depicted their addiction.  She shared Sia’s Breathe Me: (Check out the video here!)

If you’re familiar with Breathe Me, you know it’s an intense song.  (I have it on my sad songs list on Spotify, affectionately titled: Bummertown.)  But in watching this video, you can still see Sia’s playful side through the dark lyrical content.  You see her wearing funny hats, having a dress up party, and smiling as she runs through the street.  I imagine that’s how she goes through life too.  Sia is a reluctant star and has used her fame to openly discuss her history of depression and addiction.  She even went as far as to write a suicide note in 2010, but was persuaded to get help through 12-step programs.

Shall we all take a cue from Sia, Brené Brown, and other models of joy in our lives? Let’s remember today to clap our hands, smile, and slow down enough to enjoy ourselves. Isn’t that what life’s really about? Namaste, you guys.