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Theories of Play

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Theories of Play

There is a reason why we do things for leisure, and the reason we do those things can be explained with different theories. The Catharsis Theory, Recreational Theory and Surplus-Energy Theory are only a few of the theories that researchers have come up with over the years to explain the reasons and ideology behind the activities we do and how those activities help us relieve energy, stress, and even help us express ourselves. Some of the activities I personally enjoy as leisure include; painting, regardless of the lack of education on this subject; going out for walks, shopping; without really buying anything; and playing with my nephews; whenever they visit during the weekend. All of these activities fall into one, or multiple theories of play.

One of the activities that I do for leisure is to go out for walks. After a long day in school, I find that I get home and immediately want to go out for a walk. If I do not go for a walk I overthink, get a headache and even get slightly depressed. The Recreation Theory explains that activities such as these strolls consists of a trade off of energy, while one walks, physical energy goes down while simultaneously, one’s mental energy goes up. Because one does not think with the same intensity as when one completes academic work.

 Another activity that I love to do for leisure is to go out shopping, without actually purchasing anything. I find that the environment of being surrounded by people and the stimulus of public spaces calms me and gives me a sense of satisfaction that I have a hard time finding elsewhere. The Stimulus-Arousal Theory says that creatures and humans seek activities that will satisfy their needs for stimulus. These include but are not limited to sense of risk, desire, enjoyment, and entertainment. These are often expressed as laughter, amusement, and joking.

Painting is my favorite leisure activity. I find that it is a form of catharsis for me, as the Catharsis Theory suggests. I have a hard time expressing myself with words and finding a proper outlet for my emotions, painting fills this void and gives me an avenue that I can use to express my thoughts.

Another theory that painting falls into personally, is the Competence-Effectance Theory which is the idea that one learns to play through experimentation and the enjoyment comes from the act of learning and experimenting to find what is effective and what works. For example; I like to experiment with paint, colors and techniques on my own. Without the help of lessons or a professional. I have been learning to paint as I go and that is very satisfying to me. Once I find a technique that I really like, I keep using it and adapting it until it has the effect that I want it to.

Lastly, the Cziksentmihalyi’s “flow” Principle is one that I identified with the most. I find that the level of difficulty matters for me when painting. I have tried to paint pieces that are above my skill level, and when I attempt to paint these pieces I feel anxious and do not know where to start. Ultimately, I decide to not give it a try, because I feel overwhelmed. Whereas, if the piece is too easy to paint I won’t even try it, because I find it pointless and boring. I find that when the difficulty of the painting is just right, I lose track of time and become engulfed in painting. I have painted for hours and not gotten tired because It does not feel tiresome, and the rewarding feeling at the end of it is incomparable.  The “flow” principle emphasizes the feeling of losing ones sense of time and the sense of reward upon completion of the activity, the principle insists that finding the right balance between skill level and difficulty of the activity is essential to the enjoyment and effectiveness of the activity.

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