Who you are today is largely based on your childhood: how you were raised, the care you received, what you learned to fear. And as an adult, you carry this conditioning with you, and it informs your everyday decisions. Only by reconnecting with your inner child can you start to heal those old wounds and rewire your mindset. There are countless ways to connect with your inner child, release your childhood anxieties, and invite more joy into your everyday life.
What Is Your Inner Child?
Your “inner child” is a subconscious part of you, the shadow of who you were as a child before you got bogged down with the troubles of adult life. This is the part of you that gets all warm and fuzzy about your favorite Disney movie and urges you to make snow angels. But it’s also the part of you that holds onto your childhood fears and worries, many of which might still impact you in adulthood.
As you mature, you inevitably become disconnected from your inner child. The stresses of adult life–money, relationships, work–overshadow the connection. Though you might not feel connected to your inner child, it’s always there, informing your emotions and decisions from the background.
Whether or not you had an uncomfortable or traumatic childhood, your inner child holds onto both positive and negative emotions. When you reconnect with it, you face those emotions as an adult and begin to heal from your past experiences.
Signs Of a Wounded Inner Child
Everyone carries fears and worries from childhood, but not everyone has a severely wounded inner child. Some signs you might have a wounded inner child are…
- You feel the urge to mask your emotions, like holding back tears or acting like you aren’t angry even when you are.
- You feel your worth is tied to your productivity or success. If you aren’t the best, you’re the worst.
- You avoid conflict at all costs, instead leaving uncomfortable situations or taking the path of least resistance.
- You’re a people pleaser and tend to rush to others for help making big personal decisions.
- You have trouble setting and keeping healthy boundaries, especially with your parents or romantic partners.
- You react strongly to even gentle criticism, either by shutting down, breaking down, or blowing up.
All that being said, everyone can benefit from inner child work. We all carry wounds from our childhoods, but some are deeper than others.
Benefits of Inner Child Work
When we talk about “inner child work,” we mean a reconnection with that subconscious part of yourself to experience the childlike joys of life and address the conditioning we received as children. By doing the work as an adult, you can start to heal from past experiences and deconstruct your views about the world and yourself.
For example, imagine you grew up being told to finish all the food on your plate at every meal. As an adult, you might still feel guilty about not finishing meals or have a complicated relationship with food in general. When you reconnect with your inner child, you start to understand where your feelings about food come from and reshape them to fit your truth.
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As another example, imagine you grew up playing competitive sports and were pushed by your parents to be the best on the team. As an adult, you might struggle with staying active for your own health, instead feeling an internal pressure to be good at everything and please those around you. By reconnecting with your inner child, you can learn to enjoy exercise for what it is now: not a show of strength or skill, but as a form of self care that you can actually enjoy.
As a whole, inner child work can help you enjoy yourself more and shed the anxieties you’ve carried into adulthood. It helps you understand yourself better, and it makes it easier to follow your joy and passion in everyday life.
22 Ways to Connect With Your Inner Child
1. Get messy.
Give yourself permission to make a mess doing something you love–be that baking, painting, doing your makeup, playing with play-doh, whatever. Sure, you’ll have to clean it up eventually, but it’ll be worth the fun and freedom of making a mess for once.
2. Treat yourself to something ridiculous.
Like an ice cream cone the size of your head or a cute stuffed animal that catches your eye. There’s no shame in treating yourself to and embracing something “silly,” and it’ll rekindle that Christmas morning-type joy from childhood. Find a bouncy house, throw a fairy themed party, climb a tree or sleep on the other side of the bed.
3. Follow a body scan meditation.
As you mature, you lose your primal connection with your body. Follow a body scan meditation on Spotify or Youtube to really feel and experience your body.
4. Speak your truth.
Children don’t have filters. While I don’t suggest getting rid of yours altogether, practice being honest about how you feel. Start small by speaking up about which restaurant you want for dinner or turning down a social invitation when you need rest.
5. Take a nature walk.
Not a rigorous hike with a destination, but a true nature walk. Pick a local park or trail, and take your time exploring your surroundings. Stop to look at flowers, admire the views, or listen to birds.
6. Write yourself a letter.
Write a letter to your younger self. Think about what she needed to hear back then. Send her words of encouragement, comfort her, and share with her what your life is like now. Here's some writing therapy tips to get you started.
7. Spend time with kids.
Nothing will reconnect you with your own inner child quite like spending a few hours playing make-believe with your nieces and nephews or your friends’ kids. Next time someone needs a babysitter, volunteer!
8. Re-read a book from your childhood.
Pick up a copy of Junie B. Jones or Ramona and Beezus from your local library, and treat yourself to an easy read. Trust me, as soon as you start reading, the memories of the first time you read it will come flooding back to you.
9. Do something purposefully destructive.
When was the last time you broke something on purpose? Shred paper, throw ice cubes at the sidewalk, punch a pillow if you have to! As adults, we learn to repress rage and frustration. Let it out in a physical way!
10. Speak to your inner child.
The next time you find yourself feeling scared or worried, talk to your inner child. Tell her she’ll be all right, and speak kindly to her. You’d be surprised how much speaking aloud to yourself can calm your nerves.
11. Try arts and crafts.
Let yourself be creative without the pressure to be perfect. Buy a coloring book, make a friendship bracelet, or paint a birdhouse. It doesn’t have to turn out perfect (or even good, for that matter). Just enjoy the process!
12. Plan a sleepover.
Forget meeting over coffee. Plan a sleepover with your best friends! Stay up late snacking, building a pillow fort, watching movies, and chatting. You’ll get to reconnect with your inner teenager, and you’ll grow even closer to your friends (who, trust me, will have a blast).
13. Practice meditation and mindfulness.
Mindfulness exercises help us tap into our subconscious thoughts and emotions. While you’re practicing, try to think back to your strongest childhood memories and identify times in your present life when those same feelings come up. Or, if you're not into guided meditations, try a soundbathing exercise.
14. Dance around the house.
Put on your favorite music and dance like no one’s watching (because technically, no one is)! It’s a great way to feel in-tune with your body and release nervous energy. Plus, it’s just plain fun!
15. Make yourself laugh.
When you’re feeling tense, put on your favorite funny movie or watch that Youtube video that never fails to make you laugh. Just like we learn to repress rage, we also learn to tone down our joy. Give yourself permission to laugh.
16. Journal about life, past and present.
While you’re journaling, think back to your strongest childhood memories. Where were you, who were you with, what did you feel? As you dig deep into these memories, you might uncover emotions you didn’t realize you were feeling in the moment.
How often do you do something that 1) doesn’t immediately benefit you and 2) you aren’t getting paid for? Choose a local charity and volunteer a couple days a month. Chances are, it’ll be the first time in a while you’ve worked towards something just for the enjoyment of it.
18. Look at your baby photos.
Ask your parents for your baby photos and old yearbooks. Spend time reminiscing about your old classes, hobbies, and yes, even your fashion choices. Seeing how young you look in these photos might give you a different perspective on who you were back then.
19. Rekindle a childhood passion.
Did you spend all your childhood weekends watching backyard bugs, hula hooping or practicing piano? Why not rekindle that childhood passion as an adult? Pick up an old hobby, and connect with your inner child via a shared interest.
20. Set aside time for daydreaming and visualization.
Thanks to our phones and computers, we’ve become unfamiliar with boredom. Experience intentional boredom by sitting in a quiet place and letting your mind wander. If you don't feel like you have time for daydreaming, consider creating more time-freedom in your life.
21. Make your favorite meal from childhood.
Remember your favorite meal from childhood, the one you always got excited about? Treat yourself to it as an adult! Make it at home while listening to your favorite music, or take yourself on a solo dinner date.
22. Reconnect with an old friend.
Reach out to a childhood friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Ask how they’re doing, ask about their family, and let them know you’re thinking of them. Who knows? You may just rekindle an old friendship.
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