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Playing is also your job!

Published: Aug 9th, 2020 09:43 amBy Rajiv Krishnan

Published by Rajiv Krishnan Pisharoti

The nation of Iceland is a spectacularly beautiful and sparsely populated Nordic country. They have shown the world – How making its youth indulge in physical activities and hobbies has helped them big time. Surely we can learn a lesson or two from them.

In the late ‘90s, it was commonplace on Friday and Saturday nights to observe hordes of drunk teenagers roaming the streets of Reykjavik in mob like revelry. Binge drinking and substance abuse among teenagers was increasing and becoming a concern for all.

Today, nearly 20 years later, the world is witness to Iceland’s unprecedented success in preventing substance misuse. Along with this other harmful behaviors, among what many say, amongst the most challenging segment of people – teenagers.

The enormity of Iceland’s progress is evident in the figures.

  • From 1998 to 2016, the percentage of 15-16 year old Icelandic youth drunk in the past 30 days declined from 42% to 5%
  • daily cigarette smoking dropped from 23% to 3%
  • and having used cannabis one or more times, fell from 17% to 5%.

This country achieved this through various initiatives no doubt. However putting them into programs that teach Music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts, sports, remained central to their plan. Also offering life-skills training.

This success attracted the attention of a young researcher at the University of Iceland, called Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir.

She wondered: what if one could use healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol as part of a program.  Not just to treat kids with problems, but to stop kids drinking or taking drugs in the first place.

A few factors emerged as strongly protective:

  • participation in organized activities—especially sport—three or four times a week
  • total time spent with parents during the week
  • feeling cared about at school
  • and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Between 1997 and 2012, the percentage of kids aged 15 and 16 who reported spending time with their parents on weekdays doubled—from 23 percent to 46 percent—and the percentage who participated in organized sports at least four times a week increased from 24 percent to 42 percent. Meanwhile, cigarette smoking, drinking and cannabis use in this age group came down drastically.

Today Iceland is known as a country offering its teens the cleanest-living . Topping the European table.

Perhaps the most astonishing part of this story is that its success has been so complete as to be invisible.

Most teenagers there today don’t even now know there was once a problem like this in their country. In a not so distant past. They have simply grown up in a country where substance abuse is largely absent.

Iceland’s campaign became the envy of the world. Teams from other countries like Spain, Chile, Estonia, Romania have been quick to adopt this approach. All of them reaping benefits.

On the work front, many employees are found, stopping their physical or sporting activities completely once they get jobs. Even their hobbies.

“I don’t have time” is the most common reason, heard. There is no doubt, modern day, work, family, and social commitments has made it difficult to pursue all this.

However now it has become a necessity to  ‘make time  and do this also’.

Today studies have shown, benefits of exercising or playing a sport or actively pursuing hobby aren’t just physical. There is evidence, it is boosting mental abilities like:

  • Enhanced creativity
  • Quicker learning
  • Sharper memory
  • Improved concentration..
  • Stress handling capability
  • and even more

All of the above needed for success in modern day jobs.

Exercising during working hours is pumping up work performance. For eg. Workers who visited the gym during working hours were found more productive, managing time better, and experiencing more work satisfaction. No wonder some companies have started having Gym in their premise.

Sadly among the employees, attempts towards setting a personal health goal is, not much seen. Even more rarer is meeting them. The thinking perhaps is ‘I can either work or play.’ Or may be ‘Let’s do this later”.

The fact is absence of a sport or physical activities or even hobby is surely taking a toll on one’s health. Slowly but surely. Even quality of work.  

Whether one like’s it or not, the time has arrived. Irrespective of age and gender actively pursuing a sport or a hobby along with work, is no longer optional.

It’s become a part of job! This also has to be done.

Rajiv Krishnan Pisharoti is an HR professional of more than two decades. He can be contacted at [email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected]

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