By Saira Niazi
Nothing brings me more joy than inspiring others to seek out the magical possibilities that my city holds. As a renegade guide and founder of Living London, I love to embed play and a sense of lightness in everything I do.
We all feel stuck and unmotivated sometimes; even more so now during these trying times. When each day easily feels like the last, play can act as a powerful tool, bringing joy, intrigue and inspiration into our everyday lives. From rediscovering your local area, to losing yourself in the recesses of your own colourful imagination – here are five ways you can brighten up your days through the magic of play.
1. WATCH THE WORLD
Become an ardent observer and discover the hidden joy of watching the world around you. Observing affords us great relief and comfort. Whenever I feel stuck inside my own head, I make an effort to get out and mindfully observe my surroundings. There’ll always be something magical to see and hear. A beaming elderly man wearing a green suit and a red top hat strutting down the street, a woman dancing to the sound of her own music at the platform at the tube station, a boy dressed in waders knee deep in the river fishing with his dad. Watching the world can render us lighter, freer and more present. It can be a source of endless inspiration and renewal. We can enjoy the social interactions around us – and offer a smile and some kind words along the way.
Get outside! Go for a walk, rediscover your local area and the hidden gems it’s home to – whether that’s a quirky green space, an outdoor graffiti yard or a fruit and vegetable market. If you’re still in lockdown, make a note of places you’d like to explore when they reopen – a cosy café or a community centre you never previously noticed. If you live close to a river or the sea, seek out treasures on the foreshore. If you live near an airport, count the planes overhead. Make the most of where you are geographically. Follow trails, create your own, walk a little further, connect with nature.
One of the most beautiful things about being a human, is our ability to daydream and to use our imagination to recreate ourselves, our journeys and our narratives. Often despair is rooted in our lack of imagination and our inability to see alternatives for ourselves. There are a thousand ways to live and our stories can change radically in a short space of time. We can get to where we want by simply allowing ourselves to believe that we can. Daydream often. Daydream about the places you want to go and the people you want to meet, and the life you want to live. Be as creative and outlandish as you can. The sky’s the limit. For inspiration, read this brilliant article on Despair and the Imagination.
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Creativity and play go hand in hand – often when we feel unselfconscious and free we are able to create easily. Create for enjoyment, because it’s good for your mind and your soul. Create for yourself, for no purpose at all.
Over the years, I’ve written so many silly stories and ridiculous poems, undertaken courses in pottery, stained glass, illustration, painting, you name it, for no reason except maybe to learn something new and to have fun. Enjoy the process of creating whilst remaining unattached to the outcome- you’ll find creativity can lift your spirits and provide a blissful escape.
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Let go of your inhibitions and become a child again for a short while. Do what used to bring you joy during your early years on earth. As well as rediscovering the magic of play, you might just rediscover a version of yourself that you lost in adulthood. Sing at the top of your voice, dance in front of the mirror, dress up, fly a kite or ride a bike. If you’re stuck, look at children for inspiration. They’re brilliant at playing – watch as they splash in puddles, trace clouds, build snowmen and simply watch the world. Play enables us to exhale and for a short while forget ourselves, and the anxieties that riddle our daily lives. It allows us to let go.
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