Childhood is such a joyful time, isn’t it? Kids wake up in the morning excited and the day’s agenda is pretty simple – what to play today?
No boring job to go to. No broken heart to mend. And best of all, no bills to pay.
Unfortunately, as we grow up, life gets more complicated. And pretty soon, we’re all hard-to-please balls of nervous energy and negativity. All the simple pleasures we had as kids have been forgotten.
I’ve always believed that the joys we experienced as children hold a secret key to our happiness as adults.
That’s why, as an early childhood teacher, I consider myself lucky. Because everyday, I still get to experience those joys. I’d say it’s the number one reason why I still feel young, no matter what the date on my driver’s license says.
On that note, if you’re in for a happy little throwback, here are 7 childhood joys people often rediscover later in life. When you think about it, there’s no reason why these joys can’t make us happy today just like they used to.
1) Outdoor adventures
I don’t know how old you are, but if you’re old enough to be reading this, I think you remember how good it felt playing outside.
Especially in the summer. You’d sprint out of the house with the rest of the neighborhood kids and see what tree you can climb. You’d have a contest to see who could swing faster and higher on the playground.
You may even have had a treehouse right in your backyard!
The great outdoors offered endless possibilities. So simple, yet so rich.
Today, more and more people are realizing just how healing nature can be. And the adult version of outdoor adventures can be just as exhilarating.
I realized this when I went hiking with a group of friends in California. And wow, when we finally reached the summit (after 4 hours of hiking – a real feat for me!), it was such a high, literally and figuratively.
I felt just as joyful as the time I climbed the big old tree in our backyard.
So, put all those adult worries aside and plan an outdoor adventure. Your inner explorer is still there, just waiting to be rediscovered.
2) Riding bikes
How about bikes? Remember the first time you rode a bike without training wheels?
Learning to balance yourself on two wheels then sprinting off to wherever you wanted to go was definitely a major step in independence.
It was a ticket to freedom – suddenly we no longer had to rely on our parents or our two legs to take us to places. And did I mention the feeling of the wind in your hair?
Then…adulthood came and we began riding in cars. Buses. Trains. Our bodies became much more rickety and creaky.
Thankfully, biking is making a major comeback, and not just among kids. According to reports, more adults are hopping on bikes for various reasons, including exercise, stress relief and energy conservation.
In a society increasingly conscious about carbon footprints, biking is a sustainable mode of transportation that’s good for both the planet and our well-being.
It’s a win-win, really. You get to relive that exhilarating sense of freedom while also making a positive impact on the environment.
3) Arts and crafts
Oh, this one has made a huge comeback as well.
Granted, there are folks who’ve never really lost touch with their creative side. But too many of us do.
After all, when there are people to take care of and bills to pay, who has time for finger painting, right?
Well, it just might be time to make time.
Doing something with your hands is incredibly fulfilling. In fact, health experts say that it has tremendous benefits:
- It gives us a sense of accomplishment that boosts confidence
- It keeps us active and improves cognitive function
- It fosters creativity
- It gives us satisfaction through lifelong learning
That’s also why adult coloring books have really surged in popularity in recent years. People are realizing just how much it can relieve stress and reduce anxiety.
Here are some ways to inject arts and crafts into your adult life, aside from coloring books:
- Paint and Sip classes
- Knitting and crocheting
- Digital art
4) Animated movies and cartoons
As a kid, I absolutely loved weekends. There was nothing like waking up early and sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal in my hand.
As adults, we still probably do this when we have the time. But unless you’ve got kids, I’m willing to bet that animated movies and cartoons aren’t in your Netflix lineup.
Well, let me ask you a question: who says cartoons are just for kids?
Anyone who’s seen “Up”, “Toy Story”, and, well, practically any Disney cartoon would say it’s a real joy to watch cartoons as an adult.
There are no complicated plotlines to follow, no complex emotions, just some funny and lovable characters.
And some wise and simple life lessons – which we all need a little reminding of, by the way. It’s true what the old Robert Fulghum book says: “Everything I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten!”
5) Reading books
Ah, my personal favorite. As a child, my nose was buried in books. So much so that my parents sometimes had to beg me to go outside and play.
Books offered imagination and new worlds between the covers – and discovering them gave me so much joy.
Many people never stop reading, but even more do. I have friends for whom reading tapered off into an occasional hobby, until it dwindled down to nothing.
It’s a sad reality that as we grow older and take on more responsibilities, the joy of storytelling and the time for imagination often get lost.
Or they get lost in the noise and fast pace of the digital world.
But the good news is, many are rediscovering the pleasure of getting lost in a good book. In the slow and delicious pace that a well-told story unfolds.
Reading for pleasure has seen a resurgence as people are now more actively looking for ways to unplug and de-stress.
6) Simple pleasures
Speaking of de-stressing, have you ever considered how the ways we de-stress as adults have become way fancier (read: expensive)?
Luxury spa retreats. Travel. Shopping sprees. Gourmet restaurants.
Nothing wrong with these per se, but guess what? The little things that gave us joy as kids can be just as happy and soothing.
Let me offer these simple pleasures:
An ice cream cone on a hot day. The sensation of sand trickling through our fingers. The crunch of autumn leaves.
These simple pleasures had a way of making everything seem alright, didn’t they? I remember whenever I got mad or sad as a child, I’d go out and blow bubbles.
Then, after a while, I’d go back inside the house with my head screwed on right.
I’m not saying this will solve our problems, but they can certainly make us feel better somehow!
So don’t forget to pause and take it all in. Sometimes, happiness really does come in the simplest forms.
7) Going with the flow
Finally, I’d like to talk about going with the flow. As kids, we didn’t have to plan anything (unless you were like Young Sheldon).
Or if we did have a plan, we were flexible enough to ditch them when something else seemed more fun.
You could go from playing pirates to suddenly deciding that a game of tag was the next best adventure – all in the span of a few minutes.
For a child, the idea of control is somewhat alien. Children go where their curiosity takes them. It’s that simple.
As adults, that go-with-the-flow attitude often gets replaced by schedules, deadlines, and responsibilities. We plan everything down to the minute, or else the day gets away from us.
Of course, planning is a necessary aspect of life. We do have to be mature enough to have some sort of direction.
But every now and then, it’s important to remember the value of spontaneity, of letting go and seeing where life takes us.
In palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware’s “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, one thing stood out for me.
It was this: “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”
Because it showed me how we get in the way of our own happiness so much. How we impose “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” on ourselves, as if following some unwritten rulebook on how life is supposed to be lived.
And so we lose touch with spontaneity. With our sense of childlike wonder.
But the good news is, it’s never too late to start indulging in those childhood joys again. Tap into your inner child, and live from your heart. That’s the best way to reconnect with who you truly are.