6 ways your inner child can help you heal – from sound sleep to being present

Remember how carefree you were as a child, living in the moment and finding joy in every day?

Adulthood takes a toll on our health and wellbeing but, says child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, “Connecting to our inner child is great for both our physical and mental health.

“Keeping curious and doing things just for fun helps life-long learning, while working on your fitness and flexibility could add years to your life.

“See the world through a child’s eye and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a more active and fulfilling life, no matter how old you are!”

Bend it like baby

Working on flexibility in the spine and hips improves balance and protects muscles and joints

Bet you recall a time when you could so easily touch your toes and curl up very small? As we age, we lose these abilities, but, says wellbeing and fitness expert Sara Picken-Brown (sarapickenbrown.com), it’s vital to maintain them as adults.

“Ageing increases the chances of joint and soft tissue injuries as we lose our flexibility and sense of balance,” she says. “Working on flexibility in the spine and hips improves balance and protects muscles and joints.

“Gentle yoga or stretching also helps with the body’s ability to carry oxygen around. Breathe deeply to unlock more energy.”

Try this: Child’s pose – from all fours, send your hips back towards your heels and reach your hands out in front of you. Take five slow, deep breaths here and release.

Be more present

Living in the moment reduces stress
Living in the moment reduces stress

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Being present in the moment beats stress and kids do this naturally, says Dr Gummer.

“Children are often faced with new environments and this encourages them to focus on the moment, concentrate, learn and be themselves.

“But as adults, we tend to filter out ‘unimportant’ things and go into autopilot.

“When we don’t fully notice our environment or focus on activities, our minds are free to worry about past or future events, such as an upcoming chore or a wrong decision we’ve made.”

Try this: “Next time you’re walking somewhere familiar, like to the local shop, slow down and notice things as if it’s your first time,” advises Dr Gummer. “This can help you to enjoy the moment, childlike, rather than have distracting ‘what if’ thoughts and worries.”

Have a bedtime routine

A bedtime routine positively benefits adults and children
A bedtime routine positively benefits adults and children

Does sleeping through the night seem a distant dream? Around 75% of us struggle to get the recommended seven hours a night and lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease, strokes, diabetes and cancer, as well as obesity and depression.

“Bedtime routines help children sleep better – and adults too,” says Dr Gummer. “Switch off screens an hour before bed, have a bath, read or listen to an audiobook to help you drift off.”

Try this: Get outdoors in the morning. Scientists say it stimulates the body’s 24-hour biological system and regulates the sleep/wake cycle.

Eat what you need

Children are naturally programmed to eat enough to satisfy their hunger
Children are naturally programmed to eat enough to satisfy their hunger

Children are naturally programmed to eat enough to satisfy their hunger. As adults, those signals can disappear and we develop bad habits.

As well as leading to weight gain, poor diet causes a raft of illnesses, says renowned nutritionist Jane Clarke.

“We get caught up in the stress of everyday life and eat on the go, often picking food full of bad fat and refined sugars. These increase the risk of inflammation, which has a key role in developing diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Try this: “Japanese studies show we should be hitting 12 portions of fruit and veg a day – not the standard five! Frozen veg is great and more economical and practical. Ask yourself first ‘is this food going to nourish me?’ to help cut out unnecessary nibbles.”

Stand tall

Children who run and play develop a good central core
Children who run and play develop a good central core

Our natural-born good posture is often replaced by rounded shoulders, slumping and slouching. Children who run and play develop a good central core.

“In adulthood, a strong posture helps with a straight back, making you look taller and slimmer,” says Sara Picken-Brown.

“Core strength helps minimise back pain, and reduces headaches. It also helps our lungs to get full breaths of oxygen, which lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol, and reduces body fat storage.”

Try this: Stand with your big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Inhale to reach your hands above your head, then exhale to fold forwards towards your toes. Repeat 10 times.

Play like a child

Favor creativity over perfection
Favor creativity over perfection

“Forget perfection – it limits creativity,” says Dr Gummer.

“A creative child simply enjoys the process of the activity,” she says.

“This leaves them free to experiment, really think outside the box, and process their feelings.”

Try this: “Try finding a craft, such as drawing or sewing – and play! It’s great for keeping minds and bodies active. Solving a puzzle or playing a board game strengthens strategic thinking skills and gets you socialising. Kids are nagged to come off a screen, it’s just as important for adults.”

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