Psychologists at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg randomly split 533 adult participants into three experimental groups and one placebo group. The three experimental groups were given one of three exercises to do each night before going to sleep. They were asked to write down three playful things they did that day, write about an experience where they had to act playfully in a new or unexpected way, and lastly, to reflect more openly on the playful behavior they observed in themselves. “All of these methods are based on established interventions of positive psychology,” researcher Kay Brauer described. The placebo group’s activity had no proven impact on playfulness.
To understand the impacts of the three exercises, the participants were asked to fill out questionnaires about their personalities before the study began, then again at the end of weeks one, two, four, and 12. They assumed that the exercises would lead people to consciously focus their awareness on playfully and try to integrate it into their daily lives. Being more playful could result in positive emotions, which in turn may affect a person’s overall well-being. As they had imagined, their predictions were correct; participants in the experimental groups engaged in more playful activities over the weeks and showed an increase in their overall well-being.
What You Can Do!
Completing these three, or even starting with one of these three, journal prompts into a nightly routine may drive people to become more playful. In addition to this, journaling has been proven to improve mental health — it helps manage stress, so practicing this may help in more that one way!