Yes, adult playdough is a thing – and it’s being touted as a panacea for our stressed lifestyles. WA entrepreneur Alexandria Trichilo has created a range of playdough pots infused with essential oils, believed to be Australia’s first. Having seen the benefits of playdough in her speech therapist work with kids, Alexandria created Dough-Luxe to inspire adults to engage in more play.
“I started making it for friends and family a year ago and the business evolved from there,” she says.
Just like colouring-in, playing with playdough is said to be a form of mindfulness that helps us to be calm and be present.
I decide to put it to the test. Rather than buy online and wait for adult playdough to arrive, I Googled a recipe to make my own – and I added five drops of lavender oil.
“These activities have become popular because there is something about reconnecting with the child within that can feel like a safe, secure retreat.”
It could have been the nostalgia evoked by that very distinctive smell of playdough, but there was something really soothing about rolling the gluggy mixture between my hands. Much like the act of kneading a stress ball, it was a tactile experience that made me focus on what I was doing and let my worries fall away.
I hadn’t started with any plan, but found the colours naturally lent themselves to fruit shapes, so a fruit platter evolved spontaneously. I surprised myself by really enjoying the experience.
“Essentially mindfulness is about registering and noting our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations,” explains Sydney psychotherapist Brad McLean.
“It is more likely to lead to benefits of improved mood, reduction in anxiety, improved relationships and the sense of wellbeing that a number of studies indicate flow from mindful practice.”
However, McLean says the wellness benefits of adult colouring and playdough may have been overstated.
“Reconnecting with our sense of touch and the soothing effects of repetition like colouring-in could be considered mindful but I could not locate any studies that provide even a small amount of evidence that these current fads have any benefits,” he says.
“I would speculate that these activities have become popular because there is something about reconnecting with the child within that can feel like a safe, secure retreat.”
McLean believes it’s the creativity unleashed by these activities that makes them so appealing to adults.
"Because they are child-like activities, they remove the pressure to create something that is good or right."
I can vouch for that. It was the unfamiliar joy of simply creating something without a plan that made my playdough session such a delight.
“Because they are child-like activities, they remove the pressure to create something that is good or right but they do facilitate an internal permission to be creative but with minimal expectations of being original or good,” McLean says.
There was certainly nothing good about the feeble-looking fruit platter I made with my playdough – and that didn’t bother me in the slightest. If losing myself in the process of creating something and not stressing about the result is the only benefit I got from my afternoon of dough sculpting, that’s time well spent, I reckon.
Image by Chank Diesel (Flickr).
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