Humans often enjoy looking back fondly to the days when they were children.
This is because when we were children our days were filled with exuberance and unbridled energy! Digging in the dirt or the sandbox, riding our bikes around the neighborhood for hours or creating some unique playground with our imaginations. Almost any object was a toy and any activity, an opportunity, to create a story or adventure. We knew what we wanted and were likely in much better touch with our basic needs.
But, as we become adults, we adopt filters, stresses and responsibilities. We allow these things to become masters over our lives and dilute our experience of ourselves – and the joy the people and happenings around us. We tend to learn to strike down the enjoyable to make room for responsibilities and obligations.
We forget to leave time to play and connect with our inner child – something that can have a huge impact on our well-being. Hopefully this article will help us to see that spending time on activities and ideals from our childhoods, can create higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress!
Here are some different ways that we can work to bring out our inner child for health and for happiness…
Coloring Inside (or Outside) the Lines
Adult coloring books are more than a fad, and have been growing in popularity over the last several years. Perhaps you’re familiar with the phenomenon of mandala coloring books. These coloring books feature color-blank canvases with patterns and shapes, comprised of complex, intricate designs.
For those unfamiliar, a mandala is an integrated structure, often circular, organized around a unifying center. Mandalas represent the cosmos either metaphysically or symbolically. It is a cross-cultural pattern, and has been used by Tibetan monks, Aztecs, Christian nuns, and Native Americans.
Psychology experts suggest these adult coloring books reduce stress and have meditative effects. They are also said to promote concentration and assist us in disconnecting from the problems of everyday life.
So break out the coloring books, just like you did as a kid, and you might be amazed at the results!
Play Outside, In a Tree, in A Swing, Anywhere Unusual
Children are known for running, jumping and climbing over anything, and nearly everything that they encounter. But as adults, we often conform to what we consider an acceptable behavior. This usually means that we end up doing more passive outdoor activities, like eating outdoors, walking, jogging or practicing sports. While these activities are good for us physically, and in some cases mentally, the key is to do something un-structured, something to break a routine. We want to put the body in an unusual situation to give it, and our minds a wake-up call.
Think climbing a tree, swinging, jumping rope or jumping on a trampoline.
In a study, researchers compared people, each doing a specific routine, yoga, listening to a lecture and climbing a tree. They then gave each person a number recall test. The results? The tree climbers outperformed the others in memory cognition by a whopping 50 percent improvement! So dynamic exercises which engage physical balance with movement or navigation can have a positive effect on your mental ability.
Find a swing. Swings can be for adults, they are after all, a key tool of physical therapists. They offer the same benefits to cognition as combing a tree, and also boost sensory integration, helping those of us who have been bombarded with too much stimulation.
Experts believe that many of these activities or games can awaken forgotten areas of our brain, and release “feel-good” chemicals of the brain.
Go Ahead And Dig In The Dirt
Maybe you already do this, if you’re an avid gardener tending to flowers or vegetables. Or if you have some sort of physical labor job that requires handling dirt with your hands.
But, for many of us it might have been a while since we got our hands down in the dirt.
Kids love playing in the dirt and do so without fear or reservation. Give in, head outside and find a way to dig in the dirt!
If you want to be more grown up about it, plant something by yourself or with friends, do a little landscaping. Want to go old-school, what would it hurt to go looking for worms or drawing with a stick in the mud.
Reignite that childhood bliss of playing around in the dirt…let yourself go, it’s not like you have to eat it!
Daydreaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is simply a way of taking some time for yourself, in similar ways to prayer or meditation. There is no harm in letting the mind wander, as long as you have nothing immediately pressing to accomplish.
Daydreaming can give us a much needed short break. It has been tied to enhancing and encouraging creativity, organizing thoughts and problem solving! The key is not making yourself feel guilty for wasting time.
Try daydreaming in any of these situations: lying your backyard or at a park, taking a bath, lounging on the couch, looking out the window. So give yourself the gift of doing nothing and let your mind wander at will. Rest your mind and escape from the continuous buzz and flow of requirements and responsibilities (at least for a bit).
Have Fun With Your Food
What kid doesn’t love to play with their food or eat foods with interesting shapes, colors and sizes? As grown adults we often choose to forego the fun shapes and wild colors for more sensible, healthy and refined meals and snacks. It’s perfectly acceptable to occasionally break away from these restrictions and roll with the fun, strange and colorful. Preparing a childhood favorite might bring feelings of comfort or happiness! It might just change your mood.
In addition, being a kid’s food, whatever you choose will likely be easier to make, so save yourself some time and effort in the process. Animal crackers, fruit snacks, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets with a side of green Ketchup, toaster pastries with frosting. These types of food items won’t hurt you, if you only partake once in a while. Stop and think? When’s the last time you dipped cookies in milk, or ate some cheese puffs? Go for it, have some fun and relive some childhood memories!
Many of us were very imaginative and creative as children. We were inventors, builders, artists, fashion designers, and performers. Our minds weren’t yet hampered by rules, expectations, perfectionism and fears of rejection. Along the way to adulthood many of us surrender the power behind creation and loose the joy of expression. Creative activities and outlets have been linked to stronger mental resilience and increased personal joy! Studies have also shown that adults with a creative hobby are less stressed while practicing it.
Children make art, build dirt castles, make cutouts of construction paper, design macaroni necklaces, build bike ramps and put on wild fashion shows. When they do they are unleashing their creativity and satisfying their desire to produce something.
Do you like cooking, painting, drawing, knitting, or building models? Consider picking up an old hobby, try a new one, or take a community art class. Remember, there’s no need to make high-end art, gain anybody’s approval or meet anybody’s standards! It’s the act of doing – more than anything. It’s good to put your hands to work and occupy your attention with activities that allow us to take life less seriously. Your well-being might just benefit from the activity no matter how “badly” it’s done.
As humans grow into adulthood we tend to put up more physical barriers between ourselves and others. Children are often much less inhibited regarding physical contact. Many children aren’t afraid or ashamed to offer up a gentle hug, or an all-out mauling. Prior to the current pandemic situation, it was said that hugging, shaking hands and showing affection was a great way of letting your inner-child positively affect your health and well-being. That is still true today, albeit with some personal responsibility and modifications.
All kinds of studies have touted physical contact as being a source of happiness. Hugging can strengthen emotional bonds, and create an atmosphere of intimacy. Research has shown that embraces from people we trust can elicit feel-good hormones, lower blood pressure and even boost the immune system!
Try and find the right types of people to surround yourself with and begin to let your guard down! Choose to be in mature, honest relationships with others. Choose to promote health-conscious, respectable and carefully chosen physical contact. Just make a point to be careful who you hug, and find other ways to make physical contact without shaking hands so readily. Regardless of how you choose to be less inhibited to physical contact, these types of relationships still prove to serve both parties in some of the most amazing ways known to humankind.
Don’t Be Afraid of Taking A Nap
While napping is a widely accepted, and even essential act, for babies, toddlers and children. Napping as an able-bodied adult often isn’t tolerated in the western world. Napping is a not a sign of weakness, it is not a sign that you are inherently lazy, and it doesn’t mean that you lack determination!
There are significant benefits to naps. Naps can boost cognitive function, improve work output, and simply make you healthier, happier person.
Humans have a long and documented tradition of snoozing in the daytime. The midday nap is a constant through many different human cultures. In Spain, Latin America, the Philippines, and Greece, people are taking siestas, bhat-ghums, or a naps to this day. People experience a natural decrease in energy in the early to mid afternoon, between 1 and 4 PM. Napping can be a totally normal way to restore lost energy and contribute to our wellbeing, and finish the day strong.
Sleep is how we regenerate our bodies, rest or minds and achieve an optimal state of energy. Good sleep is vital and many of us don’t get enough. Humans in western civilizations often sacrifice sleep in exchange for carrying out responsibilities and tasks that we set for ourselves.
So if you’re someone who gives up sleep for other things, stop listening to nap-haters and consider a short nap to renew your strength. Look at it more like investing in your best self, and not like being lazy, weak or undetermined.
Quit Being So Serious
Children are quick to forgive, can spot the joy in life, and are able to cry, then laugh again, with enthusiasm. Many of us lose these natural abilities to endure and look on the bright side as we mature.
While we can’t avoid the things in life that are serious. We can choose how we deal with situations and people who are unpleasant, exasperating, and horrendous, we can find something encouraging or funny on the other side of those experiences.
There are many ways to turn negativity around and find the good and hopeful. We can start by choosing to not take ourselves too seriously, finding something to laugh about, and then maximizing our enjoyment of it.
There are numerous health benefits tied to humor and laughter, some even claim that “laughter is the best medicine.” Humor and laughter are more than capable of creating physiological changes in our bodies which set off a chain-reaction. Improved breathing, increased circulation, lower blood pressure, a decrease in stress, and increased endorphins, these are just some of the benefits that can be found when we take ourselves and our situations a little less seriously.
We all feel like we have a half a million responsibilities, a packed schedule, and difficult things to deal with any given day. But, if we can try and make a point to be lighthearted, silly and laugh more, we can turn the tide of negativity and shock ourselves out of adulthood in the best childlike kind of way.
It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
Kids are great at trying new things, this is largely because they aren’t afraid of messing up, making a mistake, or being “bad” at something. Learning by making “mistakes” as we grow is just a part of the process. But, for most of us, by the time we reach adulthood, we tend to view mistakes as failures and often discredit them as being part of the learning journey. Fear of being wrong, or doing poorly ends up paralyzing us to trying new things and distances us from goals or desires. A mistake is not a failure, it is a sign that we weren’t quite prepared, but have an opportunity to improve and try over again.
What can we try and do to teach ourselves that small mistakes are not failures? We can try and complete activities on our to-do lists without any practical or economic order. See how things turn out. This will allow us more time to think on the fly and deal with the results. Sure there will be bumps along the way, but that is the point.
We can try to give more of our personal whims and interests a try. By doing this in our free time, we can release something out into the world, which hasn’t been over-planned, over-prepared, or over-produced. And, while the end product won’t be perfect, it will give as room to grow more comfortable with the concept of learning along the way!
Introducing some of these ideas into our daily lives, whether we do them monthly, weekly or daily, should help us to reconnect with our inner child and recover some of the excitement and enthusiasm which we treasured as children. The results? We will likely find that we will be happier, healthier, and are more open to new experiences, and taking small risks! For many of us, as adults. these steps will lead to us experiencing more freedom than we have felt in quite a while.
That inner child is waiting for you to let them out to play! If you do, even in the slightest bit, you will likely be surprised with the results and wonder why you waited so long to reconnect with your childhood self.