The Key to Finding More Joy? Think Like a Kid.

Over the past year, I’ve tried to make seeking happiness a bigger focus in my life. It’s not that I’m an unhappy person, but I often rush through my days without really appreciating them. I’ll get busy, then run out of steam when I know I should have better boundaries to prevent burning out.  

I found that self-care was an area where I was really lacking. I tended to put my needs last, or forget about them completely in the midst of plowing full speed ahead. I used this constant motion to try to stay ahead of burnout, but it eventually caught up with me. I would get sick, fall into a slump, and find it hard to get back on track.

I knew I needed to take better care of myself, but to be honest, building a good self-care routine sounded daunting. I thought about my routine as a kid, how full of joy it was, and realized maybe I should take a cue from my past and approach self-care like a child. It turned out finding joy was a lot easier than I thought once I relearned to take on the world the same way I did when I was younger.

Here are a few of the habits that have helped me regain my childlike joy – and keep me from getting rundown by my adult life.

Don’t workout, play!

After a friend took me to an adult gymnastics class, I realized that working out at home was a chore for me – but doing something I loved as a child wasn’t. Find a way to workout that is really fun for you, so that staying healthy isn’t something you have to do, but rather something you want to do. Aerial silks, Beyonce dance classes, simulated surfing, and karaoke yoga (yes, this is a thing!) are all out-of-the-ordinary workouts that bring fun back into fitness.

Eat your veggies 

My mom was always insistent that I eat my fruits and veggies (or at least one or the other), and always made sure I had eaten at regular intervals. It’s important to fuel my body well to avoid a total crash, and not just eat a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies and call it good.

Make time for play dates

There was hardly a day after school that I didn’t spend time with friends, whether that meant hanging at my house or going to the mall. As an adult, making “play dates” takes a little more effort than asking if you can come over when the school bell rings, but keeping those strong social bonds makes for a way happier, healthier life.

Get outside 

Rain or shine, there was rarely a day where I wouldn’t be shoved out the door to get rid of some of my energy as a kid. Getting enough outside time isn’t only necessary for kids, it’s important for adults too. Even if the weather is really bad, I at least try to make the trek to my mailbox, instead of staying cooped up indoors.

Do what you love(d) 

When I was a child, I would color for hours on end. I loved writing stories and illustrating them. But because I never excelled at art, I left it behind and kept up with my writing. Once I discovered adult coloring books however, I was able to rekindle that passion. I love to listen to podcasts while doodling, so I feel like I’m getting in double the relaxation.

Keep it simple 

I so often fall prey to overscheduling myself and subsequently burning out. As a kid, my parents knew to set limits so I didn’t become overwhelmed. Now as an adult, I need to take the reins and do this for myself. Sometimes that means simplifying my meal plan, doing a bit of decluttering, or saying no to going out when I also have deadlines looming. Doing a little less can result in a lot more joy.