Childhood - a time of fleeting aspirations, vivid imagination and abundant energy; for some of us, it is a period we are eager to retreat to in our heads as a time of irresponsibility and freedom, and for others it is a time we are happy to leave behind.
Today as adults we watch our kids grow and others around us begin new generations, hopping about with enthusiasm and doing silly things with reckless abandon.
But with all this energy comes an expression of happiness that some of us have left on the backburner.
Kids can laugh when it’s raining and seem impervious to the elements, while we puff and moan about poor weather and winter car maintenance.
Let’s take a minute to reconnect to our inner child and see what we could be remembering about free pleasure.
1. Happiness is... the Great Outdoors.
This is great because even as adults we love to disconnect from the traffic of daily commuting and reconnect with our municipal bike paths and hiking excursions.
But kids seem to have an uncanny ability to truly flourish outdoors.
- They could spend hours of the day outside without becoming irritable, learning about new things every minute and craving for more.
- They find new bugs that we cannot see with our “adult” filters, new plants that are low to the ground, and they aren’t afraid to look up to see the birds.
While we are constantly distracted by real life, kids are detached and can focus all their attention on discovery.
2. Happiness is... respect.
Since us adults have to spend all day at work, it’s up to our kid’s teachers to guide them through moral conduct and responsibility during the day.
Thanks to a reward based system, kids know that if they do well they will receive favourable recognition and vice versa for poor behaviour.
Assuming adequate conditioning, kids realize that if they do well and act politely, everyone around them will act similarly and the world will be happier place. Today on Facebook we see videos of kids expressing their opinions on climate change, animal rights and gun laws; even if they don’t understand it, they still recognize good from bad - guidance that some of us take for granted
3. Happiness is... stopping to smell the flowers.
With having a bit more time on their hands, kids really know how to take it easy; no pressing responsibilities or deadlines keep them from stopping to smell the flowers.
Even though they spend all day bouncing around, we can take a page out of their book here by giving ourselves more time to stop and take a look around.
Next time you take out the garbage, give yourself a few moments to look around your neighbourhood and enjoy the fresh air, maybe even take notice of your surroundings. Actually smell the flowers. Look at the bees.
Even just a minute or two a day of this will detach you from your routine and let you just relax and smile, without upsetting your usual patterns.
4. Happiness is... giving more.
Kids learn in school that giving is a good thing to do.
In arts class they make crafts for Hallmark holidays and although Christmas will always be about them, they make up for it throughout the year by being encouraged to take pride in giving, rather than receiving.
We tend to lose track of this sometime throughout our twenties, and only some of us get it back.
Regardless, the gesture of giving something small when it is unexpected (i.e. not on a holiday) will make you appreciate both others and yourself more - and it will make you more grateful (which is scientifically proven to increase happiness).
Try it more often, and see how happy it makes you. I guarantee that from the act alone you will feel just as good as if you were on the receiving end yourself.
5. Happiness is... using your emotions.
It looks silly to us now; kids will break down and cry over the most arbitrary things, express extreme joy and energy over regular events, or get angry for something as regular as changing the channel.
But isn’t that the magic of it all? They have no bounds when it comes to expressing themselves.
As adults, we tend to keep everything bottled up in order to keep ourselves steady with public behaviour and seem level headed. It’s ok to let your guard down sometimes - it reflects human instinct and let’s other people know its ok too.
Next time you’re at the movies, let those tears come out, and if you’re really excited about something there is no shame in walking around with a silly grin on your face. Other people might start smiling with you.
6. Happiness is... getting a good night’s sleep.
Maybe this is 50/50, but after a long day of being a kid, eventually the little ones are going to hit the sack, and hard. It might be hard to get them to sleep, but once they are, it’s lights out.
Kids are like human puppies and after an emotional day of highs and lows, youngsters know the value of good sleep better than anyone - thus they get a good nights rest every night.
Pay attention to this flow of energy that they harbour and take notes for yourself.
If you’re tired, give your body a break and take a nap. Find a way in your schedule to sleep when you feel you need to and wake up when you feel like you can without rushing or having the pressures of the day.
There’s always a way to do it - even the President has to sleep.