I walked past the elementary school and saw the teachers taking the kids out of the class to explore the neighborhood. I remember the feeling that started to set in this time of year. The weather is getting nicer; The school year is coming to an end; And, I just wanted to get outside and play. In the springtime I am reminded of the need to take time out of my schedule to play.
Play time is not just a luxury. Recreation is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. And, being able to play is one of the 10 steps to optimal aging with HIV. Playful activities can keep us socially involved as well as physically, intellectually, and creatively stimulated – all of which can counteract stagnation and increase adaptation at midlife and beyond.
There are many opportunities for finding play time:
Organized sports can be great forms of play, when they are not taken too seriously, and are not beyond your physical capabilities. When you are involved in a strenuous sport you get much needed exercise and increase your endorphins. In team sports, such as basketball, you stay connected to others. You can play golf alone or with friends. And, bowling is a lower energy sport that can still work up a sweat. Even if you are not an athlete, you can find a sport that isn’t too intimidating. Jogging, rowing, bicycling, and kayaking are all independent sports that have meditative qualities. Less conventional sports such as ballet, ballroom dance, fencing, and yoga are all forms of play. Games such as cards, scrabble, and board games have the same opportunities for competitive activity, intellectual challenge, and socialization without the strain of physical activity.
Creative activities can be done alone or with others. Making art, writing, woodworking, and gardening are all creative activities in which you participate in making something new. Do you enjoy listening to music? Dancing to rock and roll or drums? Cooking, needlework, collecting? You can take a class to learn a new hobby or skill. Join an improvisation group. Care for animals. Any of these activities can broaden your sense of creative play.
If you need help developing your ability just spend time with a child. My biggest pleasure is watching a child who has just opened a present make a toy out of the box it came it. You can invent play from your imagination, too.*
There are many social clubs for gay and HIV positive people that offer ongoing recreation activities. Check out the list of resources on this site to find an organization near you where you can participate in an event or join an ongoing program. You can also take a retreat with organized activities. Blogger, Mark S. King has compiled a list of vacations and retreats (some at low cost) for people living with HIV. Follow the link to learn more.
Now, I’m going to listen to my own advice and get outside to enjoy a bit of this day!
*excerpt from Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide