Children find joy in small things like a smooth pebble they find on the beach, eating ice cream, jumping in puddles or a cuddle. They might tell you that “today was the best day ever” after going to the zoo, or having a birthday party with friends. When we grow up we learn that we should be more subdued and that showing positive emotions is not cool. As a result, we almost feel ashamed when we are excited about something. We downplay our joy and happiness. In some cases, we decide not to do the things we like, because we feel ashamed of our inner child.
This is a real shame. In today’s world we see so much negativity, around us, on the news and on social media. What would be better than to see adults express joy and pleasure over the little things in life? Be uninhibited! Set an example and allow yourself to feel and express happiness!
I try to live by this and not let my decisions be guided by what is expected of a thirtysomething woman with a fulltime job. A good example of this is the swing that I have in my garden. I didn’t have that put in for my kids (I don’t have any), or for kids that are visiting. It’s for me. I’ve always loved swings, but have always felt too awkward to get on a swing in a playground. After all, playgrounds and the swings in them are for kids, not for adults.
At Lowlands Festival a couple of years ago WannaPlayground had an installation with swings. As visitors of the festival are mostly adults I felt comfortable enough to try them and I absolutely loved it. I immediately decided that one day I would get myself a swing. I did just that and I still love it. And so do many other grown-ups when they come and visit.
Something else that we can learn from children is to show genuine affection and appreciation for the people around us. Show your friends and family that you care for them. Tell them that you do, or give them a hug. Take the time to have a real conversation, instead of quickly exchanging some clichés while thinking about everything else you feel you must do that day. Make sure to really listen. Not just to reply, but to understand. And look them in the eye.
If you feel that you are having the same shallow conversation over and over again, if you are unable to get passed the small talk, say something disruptive. Kids can come up with statements that you don’t expect that automatically mean that you will have an interesting and more in-depth conversation. You can do this too.
The first step is to make sure you ask open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that you can’t just answer with “yes” or “no”. A trick is to start your question with words like “who”, “why”, “where” and “how”. Doing this will give the other person the opportunity to share a story.
If they still give a short and basic answer you can either try to challenge them to reveal a bit more, or you can share something more elaborate yourself to show the other person that you trust them. This is an open invitation for the other person to also open up to you. Make sure you don’t come across as judgmental and that you don’t give your conversation partner the impression that you already know what their answer will be. If you want to have an interesting conversation the surest route is to be genuinely interested in the person that you are talking to.
So use this holiday season to find joy in small things and to really connect with your friends and family. Sing and dance in the shower, smile even if no one is watching, take a walk outside and look for a playground with a swing! Allow yourself to be surprised and express the joy that you feel. But also take some time to nurture your soul by spending some time relaxing or reading on your own. This is your chance to not having to be “switched on” all the time.
When you are together with your loved ones make sure to spend some time focusing on them. Put your phone down for a few hours and try to really connect. Make an effort to have an open and interesting conversation and share some special moments together.