When was the last time you jumped in a puddle? Played in the rain? Colored a picture? Did a happy dance? Blew bubbles? Children are propelled to act out of emotion. When a child wants ice cream, we all know it’s futile to resist. However, the older we get, the more we seem to control our emotions. We control them so much that we can get overly serious, causing us to lose our sense of playfulness and ability to find wonder in the world.
A few years ago, my mom, brother and I went to Machu Picchu in Peru. When we got off the plane and walked into the airport, we began to hear a Huayno, a traditional music genre native to the Peruvian Andes. My mom, who was born in the Andes region of Peru, ran right toward the band and just started dancing — right there in the middle of the airport!
The dance of the Huayno is very intense with lots of stomping, jumping and whirling — it looks much like an Irish river dance. She danced full force for about 10 minutes and kept trying to get us to dance with her. My brother and I created as much distance from her as possible. People were watching, laughing and pointing, but my mom danced, and danced and danced. She didn’t care. She was in her own world and she was carefree.
In the moment, I was embarrassed and upset, thinking, “She’s an adult and she’s acting like a child!” However, as I reflect on that moment now, all I see is her playfulness. She was having so much fun; she was a free and playful child again. This is one of my mom’s favorite memories from our trip. I asked her later why she did it and told her how embarrassed I was about her acting like a child. She simply smiled and said, “I had so much fun, so if that means I acted like a child, I’m okay with that!”
When I’m stressed, have a rough day or notice myself feeling overwhelmed, I call upon this memory. I remind myself to take some time to be playful and act like a child. And you know what? It’s actually helped me work more efficiently, be more creative and let go of things that hold me down. And I often find that I focus better and problem-solve more effectively when I take a moment to tap into my inner child.
Next time you feel overwhelmed, stressed or down, try to take a playful stance — whether it’s coloring, jumping in a puddle or dancing. You may be surprised how much better it makes you feel. Trust me —my mom and I just danced around to a Michael Jackson song last week at the mall!