Playfulness is often associated with childhood, but the personality trait also has some benefits for adults. Along with turning otherwise dull situations into stimulating events, playful people tend to have greater overall well-being compared to less playful people, new research says. So does this mean more serious individuals are bound to boredom? Not so fast.
According to the study, published in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, these playful personality traits can be learned with a few simple exercises.
Psychologists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) randomly divided 533 adult participants into three experimental groups and one placebo group. The experimental groups were given one of these exercises to do each night before bed:
“All of these methods are based on established interventions of positive psychology,” researcher Kay Brauer explains in a news release. Whereas, the placebo group’s activity has no proven influence on playfulness.
To study the impacts of these three exercises, the participants were asked to fill out questionnaires about their personalities before the study, then again following weeks one, two, four, and twelve. “Our assumption was that the exercises would lead people to consciously focus their attention on playfulness and use it more often,” Brauer says. “This could result in positive emotions, which in turn would affect the person’s well-being.”
Their predictions were accurate—participants in the experimental groups participated in more playful activities throughout the weeks, and showed an improvement in overall well-being.
Implementing these three, or one of these three, journal prompts into a nightly routine may motivate people to become more playful. Plus, journaling has been shown to improve mental health by managing stress, so the practice may help in more ways than one.
Along with improving overall well-being, the researchers say playfulness may increase satisfaction in romantic relationships and lead to greater innovation at work. “Particularly playful people have a hard time dealing with boredom,” psychologist René Proyer, Ph.D., says. “They manage to turn almost any everyday situation into an entertaining or personally engaging experience.”