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The Power of Naps, Curiosity, and Playtime

The Power of Naps, Curiosity, and Playtime

Why are we so quick to judge people as immature? Now we're not talking about people who don't pay their rent on time, or forget to pick up their friend from the airport, or crack a cruel or dirty joke at work to a customer. That is being immature. But for some reason we have this idea that to be an adult means you have to be serious one hundred percent of the time. That there is no room for “wasted time.” There are three parts of our childhood specifically, that get squashed out of us by the time we are working full time and maybe have kids of our own. They are naps, curiosity, and play time.

The importance of naps:

As a child nap time was a regularly scheduled part of the day. As a toddler at daycare, at preschool, at kindergarten, there was a time after a snack or lunch, where everyone lied down, the lights got turned out, and for about 30 minutes to a hour everyone slept.

Lets be honest, as kids we fought nap time tooth and nail, and the adults really just wanted some piece and quiet. Kids also had “grumpy naps.” Times during the day where everyone in the room but you could tell you were exhausted and needed to lie down for 20 minutes, because of how much of a whiny bitch you were being.

Nowadays we have research that shows naps to be an essential part of the learning process. We know that as the brain becomes more and more exhausted, a quick nap can help not only restore your energy, but is also a tool for making sense of all the crap that has become jumbled in your brain. We also know that kids have high brain/neural plasticity which is part of what allows them to learn and adapt at an extremely high rate. Making sure a kid naps is a great way to help them take advantage of it.

As an adult, naps are considered lazy. If you have time to lay around at 2pm on a Thursday, you're slacking off and not working hard enough. You know what doesn't change as an adult? Getting extra grump, short, heavy eyed, and easily frustrated around 2pm or 3pm. A bad diet tends to make it worse. You can lessen the effect by paying attention to what or how you eat, but it still happens in some capacity every day.

The fact is a 20 to 60 minute nap still has a big effect on your mood, alertness, concentration, and coordination. It helps reset your brain from the workload you've already dealt with. If you find yourself stuck on a problem, or extra snippy with people in the mid afternoon, a quick nap can do wonders to help. In order for that to happen, you must have given your brain or body a workload to respond to. If you find yourself taking a nap after a morning filled with nothing but sitting, laying, pooping, and eating, you will wake up extra grumpy and disoriented. THAT would be considered lazy.

That quick power nap can also help you from physical workload. Your bodies repair systems go into overdrive and do their best work while you are asleep. If you tend to be active or workout in the morning, a nap can help restore your expended energy. Any skill work you are practicing is improved while you are unconscious, not during the time spent executing the skill.

The power of curiosity

Our minds are naturally inquisitive. There is a strong pull to figure out why something doesn't make sense, or how something worked. Being curious has nothing to do with your ability to absorb or understand information. It is simply the spark that powers you to try. It's how we learn of our own free will.

As children we understand nothing. This gives us a sense of wonder and magic for the world. We are more open to new information and have zero confirmation bias. We know that asking questions plays a strong roll in learning and allowing a child to be inquisitive helps them develop critical thinking skills. We want them to develop the ability to solve problems on their own, and form educated opinions. We want them to take advantage of their higher neural plasticity and take in as much of the world around them as possible.

As adults we build a fallacy around the belief that we know how the world works. The more we believe we understand the less time we are willing to spend asking questions. Those who are inquisitive as adults are lambasted for being ignorant or stupid or immature. As a result, we stop learning. The spark and wonder within the world dims and the desire to make sense of things goes unfulfilled. What doesn't change as an adult, is the world being a crazy wondrous place filled with infinite possibilities to explore. If curiosity is the how we learn, and you stop letting yourself being curious, then you stop learning. You rob yourself of the exhilaration of finding something new.

If you look at the great minds of our generations, it's not just that they magically knew more or memorized more stats and facts better than others. No what made the great minds great, was constantly exploring and searching for answers. Always seeking out new puzzles, finding new mysteries, trying to explain the unexplained, and feeding their curiosity.

The power of play time

 

Play time is the most exciting and exhilarating part of your day as a child. It's 100% enthusiasm, unbridled joy, and free from worry or consequence. There may be rules to follow, or winners or losers, but your imagination gets to run free. Your first real concepts of right and wrong and risk reward come from playing with others. The ability to create is built through allowing your imagination to physically manifest.

Even if you have hobbies as an adult, or activities that you enjoy doing, showing pure enthusiasm for it is considered embarrassing. But for most of us, there isn't even time for enjoying things that have zero to do with your to do list. We remove joy and spontaneity from anything deemed worthy of doing. Everything is serious, your exercise, your fandom (sport, comic book, or sci-fi/fantasy), your pick up basketball game, or your role playing game. These are all outlets for imagination, escapism from the day to day, and fun for fun's sake, and yet how often do you end up filling the time with arguments, or walking away frustrated?

We as nerds tend to be the worst with this. We have built and grown into what we enjoyed as kids, and are fortunate to include and pay attention to our interests. But the joy associated with letting our imagination run free has been replaced by rigid schedules or cutting down of others for not being true fans.

We know how crucial the power of a child's imagination is for developing aptitude during a phase of their life when their neural plasticity is at its highest. We also make ourselves feel guilty if we don't take our hobbies serious enough. How many of us lose a little self esteem because we start writing a novel but don't finish. Or let the weeds over take the garden because we lost interest and want to learn the piano now instead. We look at hobbies cast aside a failures instead of what they truly are, playtime that has run it's course.

The emphasis of naps, curiosity, and play time is made when we are children, and our neural plasticity is highest. We focus on these points because they are considered essential for our development. Our mistake is thinking that at any point we have stopped developing. Sure our neural plasticity is higher as kids, but remember everything can be trained, and everything can be worked on. How much of having a harder time learning a foreign language is because your brain got too full, versus you stopped practicing how to learn new things? How can you expect to be able to enjoy life, when you have no practice in feeling joy?

The world will never run out of ways to inspire you or cause you wonder. You didn't lose your “child like enthusiasm,” you lost the ability to be or feel enthusiastic at all.