Swellness Blog


How to Nurture Your Inner Child

lifestyle wellness Jan 29, 2024
how to nurture your inner child

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR

The term "wounded inner child" often comes up in popular psychology. And the truth is, most of us have that fragile inner child living somewhere deep within. 

Whether we can't handle criticism, fear abandonment, or are somehow unable to say "no" — even at our own expense — it can be said that all of these behaviors have a root cause in experiences and traumas we lived through as children.

The problem that arises from those childhood wounds, especially as we grow older, is that most of us lose touch with our original selves. We're thrust into adulthood (often too early). We get burdened with responsibilities, worries, and stress. And as we work to create a happy life for ourselves, we (somehow) always come up against the same obstacles that have been following us since childhood. But while this experience can be challenging and confusing, creating a happier life sometimes means returning to our roots and ensuring that our inner child is well-cared for.

So, if you're looking for tips on how to nurture your inner child for a happier life, here are a few ideas that will help you reconnect with and heal yourself and find joy in unexpected places.

Remind Yourself to Become Excited About Life's Small Pleasures

One of the most amazing things about being a child is that everything seems magical, exciting, and new. Even if it's a minute detail of your day. Yet, as we age, we become accustomed to life's wonders, losing our ability to become excited about small pleasures.

Snowflakes go from being magical to becoming a nuisance. The idea of having ice cream for breakfast stops being a small act of rebellion and becomes an unhealthy choice we have to "pay for" later. And getting the opportunity to hang out with friends goes from being the best part of the week to a chore we'd prefer to cancel.

So, if you're wondering how to nurture your inner child for a happier life, do your best to remind yourself that most things in life are things we get to experience — not have to do. And it's perfectly OK to recognize even the most mundane or frustrating moments for the charm they hide within. 

Snow shoveling isn't a chore — it's an opportunity for an epic snowball fight. Coming down with the flu can be the ideal excuse to have a movie marathon in the middle of the day. Going to work is an opportunity to see, do, or learn something new every day, no matter how challenging the process (or our colleagues) can be.

Play a Game and Allow Yourself to Get Silly

The joy of being a kid is very much about getting to play all the time. And, if you're trying to nurture your inner child, it might not be a bad idea to give yourself permission to get silly — at least from time to time.

Perhaps your idea of games for entertainment involves one of those elaborate Lego sets made for adults. Maybe you'd like to play Monopoly with the family on a Friday night. Or, you might need to allow yourself to break into a silly dance in the middle of the street.

The formula for a happy life is to give yourself the approval you need to do whatever makes you happy. It doesn't matter if it's stealing your kids' toys when they're not watching or doing something completely unexpected. As long as it lifts you up, it's an activity well worth doing.

Daydream or Go Back to What Once Made You Happy

So often, we see adulthood as an endless list of responsibilities. Go to work, do the laundry, pay the bills, prepare nutritious meals for your family, be emotionally available, be responsible, prepare for the future... The list goes on and on.

But some of the biggest things we lose out on when we stop letting our inner child take over are those precious moments when it's just us, our dreams, our imagination, and the pure joy we get from getting lost in something we love.

If you want to nurture your inner child, do your best to remind yourself that daydreaming, adventures, and happy memories are essential signposts on our way to happiness.

For example, if you feel like fantasizing about your dream job, vacation, or date is a waste of time, stop and remember that you're not just whittling away the hours doing something frivolous. Instead, you're visualizing your present and future as you'd like them to be. So, no, daydreaming isn't a waste of time. It's a crucial part of getting to know yourself, defining your wants and needs, and collecting some much-needed courage to (hopefully) spring into action.

Similarly, don't be afraid to return to anything that made you feel happy, fulfilled, and secure as a child. There are plenty of benefits in participating in activities that are evocative of our happiest childhood memories, whether that's rewatching our favorite movies, enjoying the breakfast cereal that was our top choice in middle school, or listening to throwback playlists on Spotify. So, if you're feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed with the blues, give yourself permission to return to your happy place (even if only for the duration of one song).

Photo by Alexander Grey


Do Something You Would Have Loved as a Child

For many people, childhood dreams remain just that — dreams. More often than not, we enter our teens or early twenties, and the idea of doing what's sensible somehow takes over our willingness to follow our hearts. 

The sad truth is that getting those lost opportunities back isn't always possible. Especially if, as kids, we dreamt about joining the circus, becoming an astronaut, or being a movie star. However, the lost time (and reality) shouldn't actually stop us from doing the things we wanted to do when we were children — even if in a slightly different capacity.

For example, instead of thinking you can only explore the universe in a spaceship, why not learn  the use a telescope and do it from your backyard instead? Or, rather than thinking that your chances of Hollywood stardom are a bust, why not join a local theater company as a volunteer and get involved in a production?

There are millions of ways to make our childhood dreams come true. In no small part, thanks to the internet, anyone can pick up almost any skill (and even turn a hobby into a side hustle). So, if you want to do something for your inner child, it might not be a bad time to finally make their dreams come true.

Give Yourself the Love and Care You Crave

Lastly, as you try to nurture your inner child for a happier life, remember that what makes kids thrive is love and support. And it's the same with adults. Ultimately, the only way for a person (regardless of age) to be healthy and happy is to shower them with love and understanding, to take their needs seriously (no matter how silly they may sound), and to take the best care of them we can. So don't hesitate to give yourself that love and care your inner child craves.

Occasionally, the process of healing old wounds may require the help of someone other than ourselves — whether that's friends, family, or a professional. But, all of us looking to nurture our childhood selves must face that most of the work will be our own.

Take the time and put in the effort to reach self-acceptance. Try to continuously learn new ways to practice self-love. And remember not to be too harsh with yourself. Instead, do your best to treat yourself with grace and understanding. The only way to grow is to see mistakes as learning opportunities rather than something to be punished for.

Final Thoughts

Making the decision to acknowledge and nurture your inner child can feel like a weird thing to do. But, at the end of the day, creating a happy and fulfilling life requires us to accept and love ourselves for everything we are — the bad parts included. Moreover, it cannot be done without giving ourselves permission to find true joy in our everyday routines.

So, as you embark on your journey of self-love and self-care, don't hesitate to go back to the things that made you feel happy when you were a kid. Sure, it might feel ridiculous at first. But at the end of the day, proper self-care isn't about the glamor of a bubble bath or an expensive massage. It's about finding the thing that makes you feel good, regardless of whether it's something silly like watching Saturday morning cartoons or finally finding the courage to join an aerial class and make your childhood dreams of being a circus star one step closer to reality.