We have all seen television shows featuring interviews with centenarians. Many of these one hundred plus years “young” souls had wrinkles and white, gray or sparse hair. Many of them were in wheelchairs or not as “able” physically as they used to be.
But if you look into the face and eyes of many of them, often you will see at least a spark of a playful, mischievous sense of humor. They often have many funny stories or jokes to tell and the feeling that there is still a lot going on in their minds. What is their secret?
I have a theory.
We all have memories of our childhood. Many of us were given a safe, happy, play filled era with opportunities to experiment, discover, explore, be creative, and just be children. Those memories of a great childhood can continue to bring us pleasure and even influence the way we live as adults.
The “Special Something” in the spirit of children, I believe, is part of the secret to finding enjoyment in life. They seem to have the ability at times to find joy in little things. If only we could bottle that spirit and give everyone a dose, the world would be a better place.
I am touched by our world’s children. In poverty stricken countries, including areas of our own country, youngsters may have ragged clothes, no shoes or toys. Still when possible they find ways to have fun and even be creative.
If they don’t have a ball to kick, they find a tin can or something else to use. If they want to play basketball they use whatever they can find as a substitute for the hoop or ball. No bat for baseball? No problem, use a sturdy stick!
Even in what one could consider a primitive culture, children smile, sing, laugh and make up games to play when they are able to do so. How does playing, even while living under poor conditions promote joy for these kids?
How do they do it?
Those of us who don’t have children or grandchildren should find some little ones who are having fun and observe unobtrusively. Here are some of my suggestions based on my observations, to keep our inner child alive and well.
1. Find something to be totally immersed in. Children give themselves totally to their play. They often play so hard that they don’t realize how tired they are. We have all worked to the point of exhaustion, but how often have we played to the point of fatigue? This is a wonderful way of “being in the moment.” Giving a situation our full attention, mind, body and soul.
2. Share something we enjoy(ed) with others. Young children who are excited about a new discovery, joke, story or game are practically driven to find someone with whom they can share their joy.
3. Laugh freely and openly. When little children are having fun, they don’t think about how they look, they just let their peals of laughter bubble out. Laughing out loud sometimes, even when we are by ourselves may have a surprising effect on our attitudes. Try it and see how it makes you feel.
An old Yiddish saying points to the benefits of laughter, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Be able to laugh at yourself. This may take some practice. We get so caught up in what others think, how we look or sound when we aren’t “perfect”, that we sometimes forget to see how funny our goof-ups are.
Believe me I have laughed at many of my misunderstandings of what was said or done. There have been plenty of weird little things that have happened to me that I try to find humor in.
5. Look for beauty in everything you see, regardless of its complexity or simplicity. Focus your attention on every aspect of your source of pleasure. Look at it like it’s the first time you saw it, just like a child would.
6. Smile more. Smiles use less wrinkles than frowns and spread much more happiness. As you walk towards someone, if they give you eye contact, smile at them. See what happens.
Personally I like to be with people who have smile wrinkles at the corners of their eyes or mouth. Those facial lines speak volumes about the person’s attitude toward life.
7. Try to take a nap or time away from work or your routine day. Young children have to take naps when they are young, even through kindergarten. A quick nap or time away can refresh our minds and bodies.
8. Don’t dwell on past injuries. We all have had painful experiences, hardships, and even emotional suffering. We all needed time to withdraw from life for a little while in order to heal. But, unless we have one tragedy after another, which does happen to some people, we need to set the past behind and go back to enjoying life. If our past still haunts us, we may need some help. Children may fall down, scrape their knee, get up crying and in minutes are back at play.
There is so much to see, hear, smell, touch, taste, experience and learn! It would be a sad thing to miss some of the beauty, life, and amazing knowledge we can tap into just by being alive. Besides these new experiences help keep us young mentally and emotionally even if we can’t stop the aging process.
Thanks to my friend Darlene for letting me use these photos of her at play.