source: Pixabay

A plea for playfulness

A story told by Myrielle Meeus Bilzen, Belgium

Myrielle is a psychologist. We talked with her about the importance of playfulness in our human existance. "The child in us may live under a layer of callus, but it will always wait to be rediscoverded."


It can give us great joy to be allowed to be a child again for a while. Enjoying the silly pranks of a Clown in a holiday club, staring wide-eyed at the dolphin art in the Zoo, hurtling along on a rollercoaster in an amusement park with your arms in the air and your heart racing: it puts you completely in the here and now. “The child in us often lurks just below the surface, it never leaves us. Watching an enjoyable performance or listening to a captivating story brings a childlike carefreeness and amazement to the surface. There’s a healing force in it.”


Thoughts of yesterday and worries about tomorrow make way for simply being. “Being absorbed in what you are doing, the timeless space, without any obligations and with the many possibilities, transforms you into a carefree state. As if you put down your heavy rucksack for a while. It is relaxing and it brings you incredible joy,” says Myrielle.

Disney sensation

Play and imagination help us temporarily set aside all the clutter in our minds. You can call it the Disney sensation. And you don’t actually need to go to Disneyland to experience it. A simple Saint Nicholas party can bring out the child in you. You see it in the sparkling eyes, in the undivided attention, in adults as well as children. It’s all about escaping your everyday environment for a moment and focusing on something totally different.Hence the importance of holidays for people in poverty.

How does it work in our brain?

Positive emotions make us stronger. Feelings of gratitude, pleasure or appreciation expand our horizons. We are more observant and become more creative. This explains why people often discover different ways of approaching problems during periods of relaxation. Emotions of anxiety, uncertainty or rejection have the totally opposite effect. Then we curl up and can often no longer find a way out of our problems. This was presented by Barbara Frederickson, professor in positive psychology, after conducting extensive scientific research.

The healing power of relaxation

Myrielle explains that fantasy and play puts us in touch with our original energy, which sets ourselves and our lives in motion again. That’s how healing a joke, a story, a day trip or a holiday can be. “People are aware of this on a subconscious level. You see it, for example, in parents who have had a difficult childhood themselves. They often go that little bit further to provide their children with these experiences of playfulness, fun and relaxation. And they derive twice as much pleasure from it when they see their children enjoying themselves.” This also explains why people in poverty often find it so difficult to say “no” to the children during a day trip or a holiday. They want nothing more than to give them what they themselves never had.

Support staff members should play more

Myrielle views stimulating the imagination and playfulness as an element of support for people in poverty. “I am absolutely convinced: in my opinion, support staff members should be a bit less serious and a bit more playful. Understanding what makes people happy – and therefore what gives them strength – is so important. To all support staff members I would like to say: make it one of your goals to help people experience moments of happiness, because they produce an intense, healing power.”

Authored by Griet Bouwen Bilzen