childhood joy

How to Reclaim the Joy of Childhood

Every day, loud children play outside our condo. Strangely this used to irk me. Their shrieks of delight and raucous laughter pierced through the quiet of my home and interrupted me while I was reading, writing or engaging in other activities that thrived on silence.

Then, one day I realized why it bothered me: I was jealous of their joyfulness and zest for life. Of course, I was once a child too, and played with my friends the same way these kids did. And I, too, approached life with spontaneity and amazement, as though it were a wonder to behold.

But something happened on the way to adulthood. Somehow I started to become burdened with obligations and responsibilities. I became regretful over decisions made and full of doubts about those that would have to be tackled in the future.  I became saddened by the bad things that happened to the good people I knew, and from reading about the misfortunes of strangers. Life simply was no longer fun.

I would hazard to guess that many adults feel this way. In between childhood and adulthood, things like work, marriage and family intervene and suddenly we become incapable of experiencing the pure, unadulterated happiness we felt when, as kids, we were free of all these things.

But is that the way it has to be? I say, no! There are several simple things you can do as an adult to reclaim the joy of youth:

Avoid the News

The other day I picked up my morning newspaper to see stories on the front page about the mounting job losses due to the recession, a fighter jet that had crashed and killed three people on the ground, a group of Guantanamo Bay prisoners who were going to plead guilty to the 9/11 attacks and a major newspaper company that was filing for bankruptcy.

Reading downbeat news like this can hardly make you feel happy. What I suggest, then, is to skip reading newspapers or news blogs, or watching news broadcasts for one week. In our 24-7 news–obsessed culture, this may be extremely tough to do, but it will pay off. Let’s face it, news organizations thrive on negativity because they think that’s what the public wants. Just think how serene you might feel if you were able to eliminate all of this pessimism from your life, even for just a short while.

Engage in Self-Care

There’s no doubt that our culture glorifies the rebel. In countless books and movies, we’ve romanticized those who have faced adulthood’s challenges by breaking the rules. However, the rebel also carries with him/her a certain self-destructive streak that can only lead to unhappiness.

The opposite of self-destruction is self-care. This means taking a little time out from each day to do something nice and comforting for yourself. Such activities can entail anything from buying new underwear to getting a massage to picking up flowers. You’ll see that when you take care of yourself properly, you’ll be much more joyful. Pampering yourself is also the first step toward being sensitive to the needs of others, and that can ultimately only help you feel more content.

Enjoy Entertainment that Makes You Laugh

When we were children, we were given permission to devote endless amounts of time to playing games, having fun and laughing. As adults, no one is giving us this permission, so we’ve got to give it to ourselves, without feeling guilty about it. We work hard, so why shouldn’t we be able to have some fun?

Make a point of bringing a little joy and laughter in your home by buying some of your favorite comedies on DVD and setting aside a weekend to watch them. The Marx Brothers and early Woody Allen movies never fail to delight. You can also get fun board games geared to adults like Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly. Hosting a murder mystery party with friends is another great way to unwind. It’s a cliché that laughter is the best medicine, but it is also true. Laughter has even been shown to help heal physical ailments when other forms of treatment have failed.

Smile More

Everyone morning at the same time I go to Dunkin Donuts to get iced coffee and every morning I am waited on by the same young girl. I am not a morning person and can generally find nothing to smile about before ten a.m. On one particular morning, however, I smiled at the girl and asked her how her weekend was. She immediately brightened and we got into a small chat. We’ve been friendly ever since.

The moral is: Never underestimate the power of a smile. The more you smile, the more people will smile back at you. And the more this happens, the greater your opportunity for making new friends, or even just nice acquaintances. But it all starts with a smile.–one simple, easy thing that so many of us, hurried and harried, often fail to do.

Reclaiming the joy of childhood is actually easier that it seems.  If you try some of these suggestions, you’ll be thrilled when the children playing outside your home rob you of your peace and quiet.

Do you have any suggestions for reclaiming the joy of childhood? Please share them in the comments below.

About the writer: Wendy Aron is the author of Hide & Seek: How I Laughed at Depression, Conquered My Fears and Found Happiness.

Image courtesy of Macieklew.