Life Lessons from Cavemen: 5 Reasons Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Talia is the owner and founder of Starr Therapy in Hoboken, New Jersey. She is known for her solution-focused therapy approach and fearless mission to make seeing a therapist something that people brag about! She has been featured as a mental health expert on CBS and CNN, and was voted a "Top Kids Doc" by NJ Family Magazine for the past 8 years. She is also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Certified Personal Trainer. To find out more information, check out www.StarrTherapy.com.
Divide the group into pairs. Have each pair stand back-to-back. Now, keeping their backs close together, have each pair try to sit on the floor without using their hands! Slow and steady is the key to this skill. Once they’ve all sat down, have the pairs try to stand back up, again without using their hands. The trick to standing is to keep their backs together and their feet tucked under their bottoms. First pair to stand wins.
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Our bodies were built for survival. They were specially designed to react to threats in ways that protect us against predators. And yes, I do realize that talking about “predators” in 2016 seems laughable…it’s been quite a while since the human race exited the food chain. We are no longer running from saber-tooth tigers (go us!), but we do face stressors that trigger our bodies to respond in exactly the same manner as our ancestors did way back when they were still on the run.
Here’s the scoop on stress in the body. Stressors cause us to enter what psychologists call “fight-or-flight mode.” You might be wondering, “Why is this relevant to play?” As the human race evolved, we learned that survival mode helps us deal with a temporary threat until it passes. But when we stay in that state of panic, problems start to develop. We discovered that the quickest route out of “survival mode” is laughter.
“The fool-proof way to help your child cope with the daily stressors of childhood, is to purposely include laughter in your daily routine.”
Unlike our former caveman selves, “predators” take on a different form these days. For our children, this means dealing with the class bully, coping with being excluded from tag during recess, losing their soccer game, and trying to reconcile the ever-changing friendship circle in middle school.
Most parents would agree that those “predators” are fairly average experiences in childhood. But because we see them as so normal, we tend to minimize their importance. And if something is deemed unimportant, we’re not likely to give it much attention. In many situations, we might not even be aware it’s happening.
The fool-proof way to help your child cope with the daily stressors of childhood (including the ones you don’t even know about) is to purposely include laughter in your daily routine. Laughter is the opening into your child’s emotional backpack – the place they carry all those stressors. Laughter gives their body permission to let all that stuff go so we don’t live life in survival mode 24/7.
So why make time in your busy day to laugh with your kids? Here’s a list of five reasons that I hope are convincing enough for you to get silly starting today!
- Laughter reverses the production of stress hormones, like cortisol, that have been linked to an increased risk for depression, increased weight gain and lower immune systems.
- Laughter increases "happy hormones" in your brain like endorphins and oxytocin.
- The simple act of smiling literally sends neural messages to your body that release "feel-good" hormones like dopamine and serotonin – these are the very same hormones that anti-depressants target in order to improve depression.
- Laughter diffuses tension and anger. It stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation in the body, which calms down the physical symptoms of anger such as muscle tension and increased heart rate. When is the last time you stayed mad while laughing?
- Laughter helps us bond with others and can even extend our lives.
So what’s the take-home message here? Make time for play and laughter with your kids every day. Next time your toddler is refusing to leave for school – leap like a frog out the front door saying "Ribbit! Ribbit!" Have a pillow fight with your tween who is complaining about her homework load. Watch a funny movie with your high schooler. Before you know it, you and your kids will be laughing your way through life's stressors with grace.