9 Ways To Reclaim The Joy, Inner Freedom And Zest For Life You Knew As a Kid

shining a light on the habits, false beliefs and unhelpful lifestyle choices that cut us off from the source of joy within

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Do you remember how great life was as a kid? How you used to spring out of bed each morning, eagerly anticipating the day ahead?

Life was thrilling and carefree. Your eyes sparkled and you bristled with aliveness.

For most of us, this experience of uncaused joy and zest for life fades as we grow older - as we become immersed in the world of bills, commitments, duties and responsibilities… the dull and boring adult stuff.

Whilst you once leapt joyfully out of bed in the morning, the alarm going off at 6am now elicits a groan and the desire to bury your head, ostrich-like, back beneath the duvet.

Grudgingly thrust into the monotonous and all-consuming cycle of work – eat -entertainment- sleep, the joy and exuberance you once knew becomes buried beneath a thick blanket of stress, busy-ness, tediousness and overwhelm.

Your inner light has been snuffed out and you feel run down, disconnected and numb inside.  

This isn’t how you want to live your life. Nor is it the kind of person you want to be. 

You want your old, joyful self back-the one who is engaged, plugged in and full of beans.

What if the one you are looking for is still there, just where you left him/her? 

What if, just as the dense fog appears to dim the light of the lighthouse, your inner light has simply been shrouded in mist?

While I can’t promise the following 9 tips will restore you to the exalted heights of being a child in an adults body, they will certainly propel you in the right direction.

1. Keep Your Life Simple

Biologically, we humans are hard-wired to live simple lives, free from haste. This is why people in so-called ‘developing countries’ often exude an inner radiance and contentment that is rare in the West.

Complexity and busy-ness disconnect us from the LIFE inside us. They drown out the natural state of peace, contentment and connectedness.

The simpler your life is, the clearer and more spacious your inner experience remains - allowing more of the light of your true nature to shine through.

Declutter, downsize, keep your possessions to a minimum, avoid stressful situations (I avoid supermarket self-service checkout machines like the plague!), resolve friction with others, forgive and move on, complete unfinished tasks, live within your means, make decisions quickly and stick to them.

2. Slow Down To Get Your Sparkle Back

“Nature doesn’t hurry. Yet all things are accomplished.” - Lao Tsu

When you are busy rushing around, you miss out on the simple pleasures in life - the touch of the breeze against the skin, the sound of the birds singing, the beautiful patterns in the sky-the things that make life a rich and meaningful experience.

Make a conscious choice to do less. Downsize so you can work less. Cut back on your commitments. Don’t take on too much in any one day. Learn to say no. Perform each task slowly and mindfully. Leave plenty of time between appointments to avoid having to rush.

Get up half an hour early, meditate, walk to work, be mindful of the scenery along the way, spend time in the forest, watch the sunset, be awake to the world around you.

3. Living In Your Head Can Cost You Your Life

Young children are intensely present, alert and fascinated by their world. 

I remember, one day in the park, my three-year old daughter excitedly squealing ‘ladybird’, upon spotting one perched on a leaf. Her shrill voice snapped me out of my reverie. I became aware for the first time that we had arrived in the park.

Although my body had been there for several minutes, I had just ‘arrived’ in that moment. And this is how we live.

We miss so much of the wonder and beauty around us through being lost in our thinking minds. Life is here, now but we miss it because we are deeply absorbed in mental movies about the past and the future.

Get into the habit of noticing when you are lost in unproductive thinking. STOP for a moment. Take a deep breath, tune into the sensation of your feet touching the ground, feel the coolness of the air on your skin, pay attention to the sounds around you, be mindful that NOW is happening.

Making the shift from doing-ness to being-ness is the key to coming alive.

4. A Little Discomfort Is Good For The Soul

We have taken the art of comfortable living to extremes in the West- climate controlled cars, ergonomic workstations, microwave dinners, hot tubs, Netflix and luxury king-size mattresses.

But this lifestyle comes with a price. We have become, as the Pink Floyd lyrics say, comfortably numb. We have lost the sparkle in our eyes.

I recently took a 4-hour trip on a local bus in India. It was hot and overcrowded. The road was full of potholes and the seats were hard. 

But , do you know what? I got out of that bus feeling exhilarated and alive!

Walk or cycle to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, take cold showers, go wild swimming, get out in nature, climb a hill, dance in the rain, feel the wind against your face. 

Wherever you feel resistance-that is your path to aliveness.

5. Why Is A Nomad Called A Nomad?

The India spiritual teacher, Sadhguru, once asked his students: “Do you know why a nomad is called a nomad? It is because he is not mad. He keeps moving throughout his life and never gets stuck in one place.”

The tendency for most people is to build a comfortable nest and to fall asleep there. You settle for a dead-end job that pays the bills, a relationship that is way past its sell-by date and console yourself with a yearly holiday in the sun. 

It can take a lot of courage to ‘fly the nest’-to follow what feels expansive and alive-but it can sometimes be necessary to get your life back. 

“The best things in life are on the other side of fear.” - Will Smith

Feel the fear and do it anyway. Get out of your comfort zone-out of the job, relationship or life circumstances that are sucking your soul dry.

The unconditioned Self, the pulse of life within you, is wild, free and alive. It is forever seeking risk, adventure and expansion.

6. Put Happiness First

Many of us are told at an early age that the road map to a happy and ‘successful’ life is to study hard, get a well-paid job, get married, buy a house and that, once all the boxes are ticked, THEN we will be happy.

Kids are already happy without any of these things. Happiness is not something to ‘get.’ It happens naturally when it is not being blocked.

Happiness is a vibration. When you do things you love doing, your vibration raises and you become attractive, like a magnet. 

As like attracts like, you effortlessly begin to attract the right job, the right relationship, the right circumstances into your life.

There are two ways to live life. You can play it safe and rely on your own efforts to create the conditions you hope will bring you future happiness.

Or, you can follow what makes you happy now and trust that life will take care of your needs. You can let go and let God. Life supports a happy you.

7. Do More Of The Things That Make Your Heart Sing

Take a minute to come up with a list of things you love doing. What makes make your heart sing? What makes you feel joyful? Write them down.

Now make a list of things in your life that drain your energy and leave you feeling contracted and depleted.

Is it possible to eliminate some of the things that deplete you and do more of the things that make you feel good?

Get out and do some of the things you used to love doing-dancing, ice skating, playing ping pong, rolling down hills, getting muddy in the forest.

Or throw yourself into learning something new- a foreign language, a musical instrument, Tae Kwon Do, watercolour painting, creative writing.

8. Serve Others

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” - Mahatma Gandhi

A ‘me, me, me’ attitude is one of the greatest barriers to experiencing joy and aliveness. It creates a dense fog that blocks out the light of your true nature.

Being self-absorbed keeps you heavy and disconnected from yourself, others and life. The more you give, the more aligned you become with your intrinsic nature, which is to give freely. 

Look out for opportunities to serve others. Practice random acts of kindness. 

Buy a homeless person a coffee or a sandwich. Smile at people in the street. Let someone go in front of you at the checkout. Offer to carry someone’s shopping to their car.
Give up your seat on the bus to an elderly person. Write someone a letter saying how much you appreciate them. Surprise them with flowers or a box of chocolates. Spend a few minutes picking up litter in the park.

9. Reconnect With The Source Of Joy Within

When I offer meditation taster sessions to the public, it never ceases to amaze me how people who have never meditated before often experience profound peace the first time they try it.

Even deeply unhappy people are often able to experience inner calm the very first time they meditate.

Why is this? It is because, free of conditioning, peace is your original nature. It is already there inside you. 

Whatever the mind may tell you, there is no distance between you and peace, between you and happiness, between you and aliveness. 

The joy, passion and deep sense of connection you knew as a kid has never left you. You have left it.

It has simply become shrouded in the fog of busy-ness, complexity, false beliefs and unhelpful lifestyle choices.

Learn to meditate. Spend some time each day sitting quietly. Connect with the treasure trove within.
There, you will find everything you thought was missing from your life.

Your Joy And Passion Are Very Much Alive And Kicking Inside You

It is not easy being a grown-up.

Faced with a dull and monotonous job, a mountain of bills to pay and a never-ending stream of demands on your time and energy, your joy, passion and enthusiasm for life can easily be sucked right out of you.

You want your life to be a rich and joyful experience but, in truth, grumpy, exhausted and disillusioned would better describe how you often feel.

But here is the good news.

What you are looking for is very much alive and kicking inside you. It is still there. just where you left it. 

Joy, passion and aliveness are natural attributes of your true nature. You uncover them through stripping away the unnatural elements such as busy-ness, stress and complexity.

Use the 9 tips above to help you achieve this. And who knows?

You may catch yourself doing a sneaky little jig at the office copy machine!

Richard Paterson is a spiritual life coach and mindfulness teacher based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author of Kick The Thinking Habit and Awaken The Happy You. You can contact him at

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