08/14/2013 08:08 am ET Updated Aug 23, 2013

6 Childhood Habits To Take Into The Real World


They say with age comes wisdom.

In some regards, we are wiser now: Instead of refusing to eat our vegetables, we write love letters to and rap parodies about them.

But, there are a handful of habits we practice as children that we shouldn't be so quick to discard. Of course, no one wants to retain the tantrums of their toddler years or the creative self-inflicted hair cuts of middle school, but even some of the most successful people know that certain, kid-centric behaviors are worthy of conventionalizing into adulthood. John F. Kennedy, for one, had the childish habit of taking a daily nap. There's a lot we can learn from our children's rituals: Many, of which, can promote productivity, happiness and less stress in our own lives.

So, remember that you're never too old to...

Take a nap.
For some reason, a designated nap time was retired shortly after we aged out of kindergarten. This was a big mistake. Naps have this almighty power to reboot and recharge: Just 20 minutes of shut-eye can combat fatigue and stress. In fact, snoozing on the job (well, purposefully, that is) will have you more alert, creative and productive when you come to. We won't tell if your favorite blanky comes along.

Get down with arts & crafts.
For those who aren't artists, doing something tactile like kneading clay (or even gluing dried macaroni to paper, if that's your scene) could be the catalyst your brain has been waiting for to foster that next brilliant idea. These kinds of projects stimulate your sense of touch, which may be, well, out of touch, if you're like a lot of Americans who stare at a computer screen all day. Using your hands for a change can boost your mood, increase your productivity and, really, transfer into smarter, more on-point ideas when you're on the job.

We encourage our children to go outside and play, possibly because they're being nuisances, but also because we know they'll benefit from the fresh air. We should prescribe ourselves the same, simple remedy. Even if you're in no mood to splash around in muddy puddles, just hanging outside can make you feel happier (thanks, in part, to that vitamin D your body will produce when exposed to sunlight) and improve your ability to focus. Better yet, spending time off-screen provides your brain with the opportunity to renew, repair and recover from all the time you do spend plugged in.

Take a time out.
Temper tantrums -- they're not just for kids! As you can probably attest, even the most centered adult has suffered a "moment." Taking a time out, or "stepping back," as Jon Wortmann puts it, can help you collect your thoughts before the pot boils over and you say or do something you might regret. "The key is to step back from whatever drama, pressure or anxiety you're feeling and to remind yourself that you are in control of what you do with your life, what you feel and how you experience this moment," Wortmann explains. Whether it's taking a quick walk around the block or practicing a few deep breaths, your time-out is anything but a punishment: You'll return to the aggravating issue with a much more even temperament after taking a break.

Say you're sorry.
"Almost like magic, apology has the power to repair harm, mend relationships, soothe wounds and heal broken hearts," writes psychotherapist Beverly Engel, LMFT. It's true: a sincere apology, as WebMD reports, can decrease anxiety and heart rate levels -- and even help you sleep better at night -- when you're feeling guilty about something.

Children don't necessarily apologize with the greatest ease, but they have an adult on hand to remind them it's the right thing to do. The trick here is to be that adult for yourself: Often, it is pride that gets in the way of righting a wrong. If you're struggling to resurface your inner, apologetic child, see Engel's simple steps for offering a meaningful apology.

Let go of grudges.
On the flip side of offering an apology is accepting one. As we age, we learn to protect and guard ourselves from toxic people to keep from getting burned over and over again. And yet, there are times, when forgiveness takes less work than expending the energy to feel angry. Practicing reflexive compassion -- giving others the benefit of the doubt, even when they wrong you -- will enable you to experience less stress and more happy in the long run.



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