Now, some folks may think that I've just written either a commonplace or a conundrum in that title: Playing Helps. Helps what? Explain yourself, Red.
Well, most of you have already found out that practicing your instrument helps your playing. Practicing may not make your playing perfect (the old saw is not literally true for anybody, in fact) but time spent playing your banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, or other instrument does usually pay off in your ability to play better music.
But I'm also talking about the instrument itself. Except for banjos, the instruments we play are primarily delicate, precision wooden boxes designed to produce sound. This means that if they're not played, they stiffen up and don't sound as good. But if they're played at least a few times a week, they'll give their best and sound as good as they can!
This works two ways. If you don't play very much, your mandolin or guitar may sound pretty dull when you pick it up, and you might not feel like playing it at all. But if you keep the instrument "played in," it sounds really good when you play the first few notes, and those encourage you to play more. Much more.
It doesn't take a lot of playing to keep your instrument loose and sounding good. Just as with your own practicing, even 15 minutes a day will be enough to do some good and help the instrument stay in good sound. So don't spend a lot of time analyzing your playing or your instrument. Just play!