How playing with beads and clay can improve your physical and mental health

Posted by Jane Cruz
on Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My family and I are in the throws of a particularly stressful medical episode with my dad who underwent a surgical procedure on his lung which did not go as planned. Over the weekend, there were a few hours in the middle of the chaos that I wasn’t needed at the hospital, so I started playing around with a few beads and some polymer clay.  Before long, my nephew and my mom joined me, and the three of us had a wonderful respite from the stress we were otherwise feeling. It made me realize how important it is to play just for the sake of playing. The National Institute for Play (yes, there really is such a thing!) studies how play affects human and animal behavior and leads to a healthier, enriched life. Play can be structured like a game or a sport, or unstructured like imaginative, creative, or exploratory play. The NIP maintains that all forms of play promote personal health and well-being by generating optimism, boosting the immune system, and encouraging perseverance. Play can also lead to scientific discovery and even the mastery of a skill, like beading!

Another do-it-yourself technique to improving your health and well-being is to laugh! Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say "When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered." While laughter can't necessarily cure your ailments, there are many positive long- and short-term benefits of laughter, including relieving stress, stimulating organs, relieving pain, and increasing personal satisfaction.

Phred, my polymer clay figure with beads for eyes, makes me laugh every time I look at him!
After this weekend, I can vouch for the importance of both play and laughter. Here is a picture of Phred, one of the goofy polymer clay creatures I made this weekend. Those few hours playing with clay and laughing with my nephew and mom were unexpected and wonderful, and gave all of us the renewed energy to jump back into the stress that is our lives for now. I wanted to share that feeling with my sister, so I gave Phred to her. She immediately burst into laughter, then tears, then more laughter. Eventually, she said, "That is just what I needed!" I hope Phred makes you laugh, too, and that you are able to take some time out of your busy lives to laugh and play. If you need an excuse, tell yourself it's important for your health and well-being.  

Be well!

--Jane

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