A mental health expert is encouraging adults to play more, sharing that it never stops being important.

"Science now backs up how critical play is for our mental health. The links between play and emotional and physical wellness are huge," says Terry Warburton, Clinical Director at Recovery of Hope in Winnipeg. 

She says that play can help people become more resilient, adaptive, mature, and creative. By taking time to play, it can help people feel more connected to others, improving emotional and physical health.

"For many, when they hear the term play, they think that it is something just for children. You might be thinking, I don’t play. I don’t know how to play or have the time. I think you will find that each of us has our unique ways of playing," says Warburton. 

There are different kinds of play, according to the Clinical Director. 

"The kind of play that benefits our emotional, physical, and psychological health is a certain kind of play - expressive play. One of the main differences between work and play is that there is no expected outcome when playing. It is simply the experience," she says. 

When an adult engages in expressive play, it is called "activated rest", which is the closest people get to sleeping while they are awake. It doesn't include watching a show or playing a video game, which is external, according to Warburton. This type of play comes from within. 

"There are a lot of things that we can do to bring more play into our lives and will benefit us emotionally and physically. Once we discover what works for us, we can remind ourselves to find moments of play every day."

While play can look different for each person, Warburton shares a few examples of play. 

"Telling stories while using different voices. Acting things out. Music is a big one as it has a powerful way to tap into our emotions. Listening to music, moving to music, writing music, playing music - can all be play. Laughter and humour and silliness. Art, being creative, writing in a journal, dancing, or wrestling with your kids."

For people who are nervous to try playing, especially if it's been a while, a great start is to try something when you're alone, according to Warburton.

"Being alone is what makes it playful because it’s about the experience and not the outcome. I become playful when listening to certain songs. I have been known to sing at the top of my lungs while driving," she says. 

Trying out a fun activity when someone is feeling emotionally down, even when they don't feel like it, can bring out an unexpectedly positive reaction. 

"Play and depression don’t go together. We might not feel like playing, but we can try doing some playful things which can then kickstart a greater sense of well-being. It might be as simple as cranking up the tunes and doing a little dance in the kitchen when no one is watching," she says. 

As many people face Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in January, Warburton encourages play to help with combatting the disorder. 

"I hope that each of you will take the time to enjoy moments of play in your everyday life! You will feel better."