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Earlier this week my Instagram feed was filled with videos of elite athletes trying – and flopping catastrophically – at sports endeavors outside their usual field. The posts were accompanied by the hashtag #PlayNew. There was even a Nike commercial played during the televised USATF Golden Games at Mt. Sac on NBC that celebrated the humbling, messy, silly, crazy, all-in approach to trying something completely new.

Three personal transformation themes from the “Play New” campaign:

Having Fun is a Gift

Pandemic-related closures drove us outside, in search of stress relief and ways to get moving. Unplugged activities on wheels, on foot, or along new paths amplified simple joys of breathing, moving, and playing.

Some of my best days in 2020 were the days that I tried a new activity like sledding down the steep driveway (and wiping out) at Zennest, bombing a hill in Bryce Canyon on a mountain bike, repelling into an Ice Cave, you get the picture.

Kids and adults alike need playtime — it’s an essential part of our health and longevity.

New Activities Empower Your “Sixth Sense”

Berkeley researchers say that the ability to perceive your body’s movement—proprioception or “sixth sense”—helps us move through space with ease and skill. This sense impacts how you think about yourself and how you imagine others see you. Perceiving your sense of self and the qualities of your movement during physical activities can counteract negative messages in your head.

Feelings of being too weak, too old, too busy, etc., etc. are replaced with powerful affirmations of ability.

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone Promotes Growth

Any type of comfort zone is an invitation for stagnancy, boredom, and performance plateaus. Trying a new activity, even if you’ll likely be horrendous at it, awakens latent abilities and promotes the growth of neural pathways in your brain. These neurobiological mechanisms help us bond with others, feel joy, and develop new cognitive abilities and strengths.

Nike’s “Play New” campaign’s theme includes a hopeful message that personal transformation is accompanied by resilience and determination as well as joy and fun. Our post-pandemic world is ready for a lighter note, and that includes trying something new and getting back out there.