Another researcher Eleanor learned about is Dr. Stuart Brown, who she subsequently met. As the founder of the National Institute of Play, Dr. Brown's work is focused on the effect and importance of play in our lives. His research indicates that play is as basic a natural phenomenon as sleep, and, like sleep, many of us aren't getting enough of it.
He found that there a strong connection between the practice of play and the emotional and cognitive development of the brain. So not only will engaging in play, which could include physical activity or sports, a creative practice such as painting, or simply giggling with your child, improve your physical and emotional wellbeing, it can reinforce patterns in your brain and optimize the learning process.
Dr. Brown came to research play through research on murderers—unlikely as that seems—after he found a stunning common thread in killers' stories: lack of play in childhood. Since then, he's interviewed thousands of people to catalog their relationships with play, noting a strong correlation between success and playful activity.
A life devoid of play faces major health risks, such as depression, a decreased immune system, and stress-related diseases. On a larger scale, a culture devoid of play may even experience higher rates of interpersonal violence and crime. By incorporating more joyful, non-repetitive activities in our lives, Dr. Brown argues, we are able to replace these health and societal risks with a greater sense of well-being for ourselves and our communities. www.nifplay.org/institute