If you've lost your inner child, maybe it's time you found her again—when you do, you'll also rediscover the joy and wonder and fearlessness you once knew.
If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree… I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, Not me!
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh for the musical production
of J.M. Barrie's book Peter Pan
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This post was originally published as a guest post on Cyndi Briggs's blog The Sophia Project. Her blog is no longer available, so I've refreshed the post and am sharing it here again.
I can't wait to grow up…
Why is it that some children can't wait to grow up, while most adults would love to be children again?
Yet derogatory images of childhood have crept into our language.
“Oh, don't be childish!”
“You are such a baby!”
“He's just never grown up.”
As we get older, we too often begin to associate childishness with the more negative attributes of some children: selfishness, poutiness (I don't think this is a real word, but you get the gist), impatience, and tantrums. Society does its best to drum these traits out of us, but somewhere along the way, we can also lose other wonderful childhood traits such as a sense of wonder, fearlessness, playfulness, innocence, and trust.
Now I'm not knocking maturity. It allows us to take responsibility for our own actions and happiness. It gives us the inner fortitude to handle the challenges life throws at us. It greatly facilitates our getting along as adults in society.
But has growing up seemed more about soul-sucking responsibility and drudgery than joy?
Maybe you need to rediscover your inner child!
Here are just a few fun ways you can start. If you try each of these for just four days, you'll begin to get back in touch with that beautiful child inside you:
- Rekindle your sense of wonder: Make a point of paying attention to the world around you. Look closely at a flower. Study the intricate patterns of a leaf or tree bark. Marvel at the immense power of a storm or the ocean. I started a nature journal so I could capture some of these experiences.
- Reflect on what makes you happy and sad: Tuck a couple of index cards in your pocket, and jot down what makes you happy or sad. As you identify situations or scenarios or activities that lift you up, consciously make more time for them. I realized how happy I felt when someone thanked me for a handwritten note. So now I write more of them!
- Minimize what makes you sad or stressed. When I started paying attention to this, I discovered a direct correlation between my stress level and the amount of sleep I got the night before. Getting more sleep has been a game-changer for me.
- Make time for play: This is one I struggle with myself, but researchers are discovering play is a powerful therapy for stress. Think about what play means for you and make time for it. I bought myself a Buddha Board for my desk so I can doodle at will. How long has it been since you've been on a swing? I'll bet you can still recite “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson: “How do you like to go up in a swing, up in the air so blue?”
- Be yourself: Of course, this should always be tempered with kindness and thoughtfulness, but don't keep people guessing about your motives or your opinions. Be a “what you see is what you get” kind of person and, even more importantly, respect and cherish that in others. It takes courage to be yourself.
- Try something new: Children aren't afraid to set out on a new venture, but as we get older, fear of failure can become almost paralyzing. Have you been meaning to write a book? Are you itching to turn your hobby into a business? Do you want to learn a new language? Take one baby step towards your goal today. I'm taking a course on Digital Publishing so I can write that book I've been talking about for years.
- Explore: Get out of your rut. Read a book or watch a move in a different genre from your usual fare. Try a new food. Go somewhere within 50 miles you've been meaning to visit. Our local arboretum is on my list to visit soon.
I know these simple techniques won't fix all the stress or sadness or worry in your life, but they can help you rediscover a part of you that may have been dormant.
How have you gotten in touch with your inner child? I'd love to hear in the comments below.
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