As a kid, I could spend hours playing with random objects. My dolls all had intricate backgrounds, a story that brought them together; I used Legos and blocks to create spaceships and buildings. Heck, you probably could have given me some sticks and rocks and I would’ve decided the rocks were an alien space invader that the stick-people were fighting. You get the idea; when I was a kid, I was creative.
I was recently reminded of this fact when I visited my younger cousins. They were playing in a pretend kitchen, making pretend food, and then pretending to eat it. I could clearly see that it was exciting for them, and I had fun watching them laugh and play, but I had a hard time understanding—or, I guess, remembering—why acting like you’re eating a plastic hamburger is so entertaining.
This phenomenon—the loss of excitement for the little things in life—seems to happen to everyone as we age. But why? Why do we lose our curiosity and creativity when we grow up? Is this the sacrifice we have to make in exchange for more knowledge? Is it possible to regain that sense of wonder we had as children?
As we move through life, we learn to adapt to social norms in order to fit in. We’re forced to follow rules and expectations. And as we learn more facts, our thinking patterns and worldview start to become more rigid. But no matter the causes, there are some ways you can bring back that childlike sense of happiness and creativity in your life.
Remind yourself to experience moments for what they are instead of judging them. Engage in all five of your senses and focus on the present. Avoid worrying about things that have happened in the past or could potentially happen in the future.
An easy way to practice mindfulness is via an app like Headspace or Calm that has guided meditations for beginners.
Some of us are so used to being busy that we feel anxious or weirded out when we have a huge block of free time. But it’s okay to not be productive 24/7, so use that time to relax and have some fun. Go outside and kick a soccer ball around, pick up a new hobby, or try to bake a cake. Whatever you do, the important thing is that you partake in the activity for the fun of it.
How can you tell if what you’re doing is considered “playing”? Well, Mark Twain had a good rule of thumb: “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
You know those random questions we think of throughout the day? The ones that are puzzling but not exactly relevant, so you never bother looking into them? Well, if you’re curious, why not do a quick search? Learning new things keeps your mind open and active. You don’t have to go overboard with this one, but it’s interesting to learn a new fun fact every once in a while.
As you’ve probably heard a thousand times by now, nothing new or exciting happens when you’re doing the same things and stuck in the same routines. But it’s hard to try new things because, unlike kids, we worry about what other people think of us. A fair amount, actually. And staying in your comfort zone is, well, comforting. Though it feels challenging, you should push yourself to try something different. Even if you’re nervous, you’ll grow more as a person.