Four Ways to Unleash Your Inner Child

Monday, July 27, 2015

I bought one of those anti-stress, adult coloring books the other night.

I don't really know why we feel like we need to qualify such coloring books with the word "adult," as if owning or using a coloring book after the age of ten is somehow shameful.  I mean, how dare we take a few minutes to ourselves to check out of Hotel Adult Responsibility and into Hotel Coloring Goofy Pictures of Winnie the Pooh?  We need to be mature, and file our taxes, and wash the skillet that's been sitting on the top of the stove for the last day with dried flakes of cheese in it, and do the laundry, and send a million e-mails for work, and watch the news so we can contribute intelligently to conversations on world affairs.

These are all good things for adults to do, if for no other reason than that we don't want to live in squalor or ignorance.  Or financial ruin.  I'm in no way advocating negligence here.

But sometimes?  Sometimes I just want to color!

... Unfortunately for me, I left both of my coloring books (one, inspired by Winnie the Pooh, and the other, Frozen-themed) at home when I moved to Colorado earlier this month.  I'm sure my mom will get around to shipping them to me at some point or another, but until then, I'm experiencing something of a dilemma -- one that I solved on Friday night by purchasing another book, an adult coloring book.

It wasn't too expensive, and it's beautifully hardbound with thick, almost cardstocky pages.  The designs on the inside are intricate, with so many teeny white spaces to fill that it's almost intimidating.  This is the type of coloring book that my other ones want to be when they grow up.


Yes.  There is a but.

It's just that all of those intricacies?  They just give the book so much... order.  There's supposed to be some kind of scientific reason for this, like that focusing on detailed tasks makes us forget about other things we might be stressing out about.  But there's something just a little counterintuitive about trying to combat the stresses imposed on our lives by rigorous structure with...

More structure.

Don't get me wrong.  I think there's a time and a place for this detailed, focused kind of energy in stress relief.  But I think I prefer the pictures in my other coloring books, the ones with fewer lines and more room to color outside of them.  There's just more freedom there.  I've noticed that the moments in which I feel least stressed are those moments in which I reconnect with the freedom of my childhood: the glorious, uncontrolled, color-outside-the-lines sort of silliness that seems to abound in every kid who's yet unburdened by the realities of the world.  

So I'm proposing four alternative (or maybe just additional), unstructured ways to unleash your inner child:

1)  Dance.  This is convenient if you're already someone who takes dance classes, or has had years of experience.  But if you're not, don't lose hope!  I'm more of a "dance to the background music playing in restaurants or department stores" kind of gal myself.  There's something so refreshing about just letting yourself go in these small moments.  :)

2)  Sing in the car.  Go ahead.  Blast the jam when your favorite old NSYNC song comes up on the Sirius XM Pop2K channel.  For bonus points, do it when you're at a stoplight or stuck in traffic, roll down the window, and get the person next to you to sing along.  Not that I've ever done this or anything.  But you can't go wrong with this little moment of camaraderie like the sort you used to make so effortlessly when letting someone play with you in kindergarten.

3)  Laugh.  Not that practiced fake-laugh we all have up our sleeves for awkward social interactions in which we might not exactly be sure what the other person said, or we know what they said but just have absolutely zero idea of how to respond.  So we laugh instead.  Right.  I don't mean that kind of laugh.  I mean a deep, belly laugh, the kind where you just completely let go of yourself and the fear that you might be creeping some people by laughing so fully or maniacally.  Just give yourself permission to be silly.

4) Splash about in puddles.  That was a catchy, succinct way of summing this point up, but I'll expand it to just say this instead: enjoy life.  Go for a short walk every day if you can, and allow yourself to be amazed by the magic of the world around you: the fluffy little puppy who's running so fast to try to keep up with its owner that it looks like it's hovering off the ground, the brilliant purple flowers in the window display of some store you walk past every day but don't ever really look at, the hummingbird lingering at the feeder just inches from your table, the elderly couple ambling down the street and holding hands.  Be present in each moment and watch the magic unfold.

...And coloring is still cool, too.  I'm not abandoning the book I bought on Friday night.  I just want to make sure I'm allowing a healthy dose of childlikeness to enter my adult life, too.

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