Why Retaining The Child Within Us Is Vital For Our Mental Health

four children jumping in grass in a forest

When I first pitched this article, I was in a dark place in my life. Seeing an endless stream of discrimination whilst scrolling through social media was really taking a toll on my mental health. Well, that, and the bottomless pit of tragic news that is the year 2020, of course. It’s safe to say that I was struggling. 

Then my relationship of six years came to an end. Great. 

But it’s not just me, of course. In addition to the aforementioned endless stream of bigotry, being an adult in the modern world is just so tough. Someone working full-time can be expected to work 40 hours a week, over five days of eight-hour chunks, with only two days off to recover. That’s a lot of work for little play. Many people are also on minimum wage and struggling to get by, not to mention the students and graduates who have thousands of pounds worth of debts looming over their heads. In a nutshell, capitalism is difficult for 99% of us, and when you throw in a pandemic this year for good measure, you really come to realise that being an adult is very stressful indeed – though it’s pretty difficult even without one. 

Letting Loose

So how do we cope? Whilst everyone will have their own ways of managing their mental health, there is one fundamental aspect of our lives that truly can keep us sane: our childhoods. You see, being a child is awesome. You’re easily entertained, you can do stupid and silly things and get away with it, and you constantly look at the world in wonder as you learn and discover new things, day in, day out. It’s an exciting and wholesome period of your life, but it is whisked away from you all too quickly as you grow up, take on more responsibilities and learn the ways of the world. 

Given all the positives of being an innocent child, we shouldn’t leave that part of us behind completely. Life is all about balance, and if you’ve only got two days off a week, why not take full advantage? Sometimes we see people being childish, or immature – but as long as that doesn’t involve being unkind to someone, why should we judge them? Who knows what they’ve got going on in their life; we certainly don’t, so if they want to be silly to blow off some steam, leave them be. Let them stick a traffic cone on their head, let them rock out to music like no-one else is around. It may be vital for some people that they are allowed to go a little nuts from time to time; heaven knows I’d often just love to leap into a ball pit and go to town in there.

Revisiting Nostalgia

Moreover, our childhoods give us one more gift for us to take into adulthood: nostalgia. Nostalgia is an important aspect of life for so many people, and revisiting nostalgic things, whether it be songs, albums, video games, books or anything else that we fondly recall from our earliest days, can really bring an unbridled joy into our adult lives. To use a personal case, the one thing that has really helped me through this dark period of my life is the perfectly-timed release of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1&2 remake. I spent so many hours of my childhood playing both THPS1 and THPS2 on my PS1,  and to be able to play it again now, with the same music, skaters and locations as the originals, but with amazing graphics to boot, is just the perfect remedy I needed. It’s a getaway, an escape, like so many of the video games I play are – but that added dash of nostalgia on top is the cherry that makes this game so special. 

The nostalgia of this game helped keep my brain steady. The game not only offered a distraction away from my issues, it also reminded me of the joys that life can bring. Without that game, and without its association to the child in me, I would be in a much worse place right about now. Also, I spent a decent amount of time recently re-programming my Windows 10 to look and sound as XP as possible, with all the sound effects and everything. Nostalgic and beautiful. 

Maintaining A Healthy Mind

Put simply, as we navigate our stressful lives, being able to switch off is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind. Being able to let loose and act childishly, with a freedom seldom afforded to us as adults, is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind. Being able to revisit things from our childhood that make us feel young again, is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind. To go on journeys of discovery and allow ourselves to wonder in awe as we learn new things again, is crucial to maintaining a healthy mind. 

The child within us is how we stop ourselves from going full adult, which in turn is how we can maintain the fun that can come with being alive. As the Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who once said, “there’s no point in growing up if you can’t be childish sometimes.” Amen to that, Mr. Baker. 

Words by Ben Hobson

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