I love my work with children. Everything about their stories- what takes their breath away- what makes them giggle- their creativity: it’s truly electric. It’s refreshing. That ‘I want what they have got’ kind of feeling. You know what I mean?
What ‘they have got’ isn’t so hard to work out and it really isn’t complicated. In fact children really have this whole ‘happiness’ thing made simple. They don’t over complicate it, read too much into it, or try too hard. They do the exact opposite: they don’t try at all.
Children are simply themselves- at one with the world- taking it all in with gratitude, presence and wonder. They take delight in the most simple things. They are fascinated in what they see, touch, interact with. They are present and allow themselves to be in the moment.
In my years of working with children I have reflected on what we can learn from children when it comes to happiness. Since realising these innate qualities children carry deep inside (until society has a go at making a mess of it!) I have made a conscious awareness to sprinkle these too into my life. And what do you know? The kids know a thing or two about living.
My conclusion: Let your inner child beam out a little more. You will be so thankful you did.
Lessons from children about happiness
1. Be present. The other day I was on the bus. It was dead set boring being in early morning bumper to bumper traffic (especially when you have the kind of bus driver that slams the breaks). People are on iphones, tablets, and whatever latest gizmo is on trend. There’s the odd sigh, the watch check, the frustrated someone muttering away. Faces are long and glum.
Then there is this child, a possible 2 year old who is transfixed with the surroundings outside the bus window. She’s pointing at trees, birds, people, babbling and chuckling away. The world was literally her oyster. And she is so proud, excited and in awe. Presence right there, in that 2 year body, standing on the bus seat, face plastered to the window.
Later on that day a child I was working with said to me during a session: “Where did the time go? That went so fast”. That again is presence.
Children seem to have this ability to allow themselves to experience a sense of ‘flow’; where their internal rhythm, matches the rhythm of their surroundings. A certain synchronicity where they don’t preconceive, future think, judge or get into their head/ story. They just surrender to what is unravelling right before them. Kudos kids. Kudos.
2. Take time to marvel. A child once said to me “I was walking in the rain the other day and it was just so cool. The sky let’s out such huge, rain drops. How cool is that?!”. I hadn’t, in a long- looong time thought about just how marvellous rain is. In fact I often think the opposite especially when I’m stranded under some bus shelter, with a umbrella that is fairly useless, with wet feet. And I hate wet feet.
Yet here I am, side by side with this 7 year old child who, like me, had experienced torrential tropical rain. I’m sure he was soaked and longing to be inside (oh and I’m sure he had wet feet and hated every minute of that too). But unlike me who had conjured up images of a nightmare situation when we started talking about this topic, he was able to find the bliss; glimpses of wonder and amazement in this situation.
And hearing him talk about how cool the rain was, made me think about it in a new light. Yes it is cool that the sky produces rain- that rain can be so big and persistent that you can make out the individual size of the droplets- that in a moment it all just stops.
This is another example of truly seeing a situation beyond how it affects you in that given moment. In fact after this conversation I haven’t looked at rain quite the same way again. I have now come to appreciate rain for what it is: a truly marvellous experience from mother nature.
3. Get Creative. One of my favourite things to do with children is to give them free reign of whatever space I am sharing with them and watch. Just sit back and let them unravel in front of my eyes. Of course there are children who struggle- get stuck- shy away. But then, there are those children- and there are many many many of them- who amaze me.
They light up. They become about 7 feet taller in my book. They dominate. Simply put they radiate. How do they do this? They take risks. They dont’ care what it ‘looks like’ on the outer- they do things because it makes them feel good. Makes them feel good (I just love that).
They rock that superman outfit in public like they actually are superman. They chomp on that chocolate bar because they want to, rather than anguish over it for hours, beating themselves up. They leap onto that ride, swing from the trapeze, jump from that height. They know they will be ok, they will land on their feet, life will go on. They dance with themselves and rock out that tune, in public or private- it doesn’t matter.
They grasp experiences because why the heck not? They haven’t said yes to fear yet. They whole heartedly say yes to love. And that is something that can truly bring us more happiness. Saying yes to love over fear.
This post has been one of my favourite to write. It honestly has made me smile the whole way through crafting this for you. So tell me… How are you going to harness your inner child tomorrow?
Images via @gratitude_project