A lot has been written in recent years about the power of repetition. Some claim that that the key to mastery of any skill is to practice it for 10,000 hours! Or perhaps you’re a sports fan who has heard how NBA legend Michael Jordan shot hundreds of free throws in practice every day, so he could make shots when it mattered. If you’ve studied a musical instrument, you probably never practiced as much as your teacher wanted you to, but you know that practice really improved your playing.

Some psychologists believe that you have to repeat an action or a behavior at least 400 times to learn it and implant it in your mind. That makes sense. Whether you like to cook, golf, or sew, the more you do something, the better you get.

Yet there’s an interesting exception. It only takes 12 repetitions to learn an action if you’re learning it while engaged in play. Yep. Read that again. If you’re having fun with something, or doing it in an enjoyable atmosphere, your brain learns 33 times faster!

The same thing applies to human behavior. There’s good reason for that, because play does more than make us feel good. It’s a powerful way to disarm fear and loosen the grip that it can have on people. When we engage in play with other people, we’re better able to deepen relationships and overcome differences. If we’re enjoying ourselves, both the rational and emotional parts of our brains become more receptive and eager to learn.

So what does that mean in practical terms and what does it have to do with Christmas? Let’s look at two types of relationships that are easily strained: relationships between couples, and relationships between parent and child. If fun builds connections and can overcome fear, just think of what it can do to lay the foundation for a healthier relationship.  A couple who is accustomed to playful interaction will not only laugh a lot more; when confronted with a situation that isn’t fun, instead of resorting to anger or fear, they’ll be more likely to come up with a constructive response that actually strengthens the relationship.

The same is true for parents and children. The dynamic between parent and child usually puts the parent in charge, and the child is expected to do whatever the parent wants. When that dynamic leads to fear or anxiety, children begin to protect themselves by distancing themselves from parents, whether that’s by physically moving away or building emotional walls.  When parents successfully create playful interactions with their children, they draw them closer both physically and emotionally. That doesn’t mean the children won’t respect parental authority. Actually, they’ll probably have stronger respect.

A great gift to give this Christmas during a year that has been filled with fear and anxiety? Give your loved ones the gift of play. There might be more closures that we are accustomed to, there are lights, hot chocolate, skating rinks, and believe it or not – board games! There are so many fun (and socially distanced) activities still available.

And, if you’re in a relationship that seems strained, and the Christmas cheer just isn’t helping at all, we can help you rediscover what you instinctively knew as a child: that play is fun. Intrigued? Give us a call at 317-790-9396 and let us show you how to start having fun together. Feel free to contact us today.

Britt is one of our therapists. She is trained in TBRI which helps develop trust and enjoyment in parent/child relationships. She works at both our Avon and Brownsburg offices.

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