A Playful Personality Can Improve Overall Well-Being, Study Shows

Assistant Managing Editor By Abby Moore
Assistant Managing Editor
Abby Moore is an assistant managing editor at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
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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. 

How they studied the link between playfulness and well-being. 

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: 

  1. Write down three playful things you did today.
  2. Write about an experience where you had to act playfully in an unexpected or new way. 
  3. Reflect more broadly on the playful behavior you observed in yourself today. 

"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 12. "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.


How to become more playful and why it matters. 

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."

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