Tag Archives: Play

Mind Body Medicine: A Good Laugh

This is a good place to start on a Monday, the most unfunny day of the week.

Science, Art, Religion and various realms of knowledge are slowly melding back together under one roof….the human experience. What we instinctively do, is often for the betterment of humankind and ourselves. Take Laughter. And then take these families here, for example…

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Did you crack a smile?

Remember the old adage ” Laughter is the best medicine”?

Realizing this post bears a striking resemblance to mass fluff emails from well meaning relatives and coworkers.  Admit it. You’ve smiled at one of those emails before, even a little. At least one thing here should coerce a laugh, or at least create recognition to the benefit of having one.

…also keeping in mind a newly edited old adage “beauty, [and humor] is in the eye of the beholder”…

We live in such a cynical society. Just let go sometimes.

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play adds joy, vitality, and resilience. And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.

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Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:

  • Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
  • Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
  • Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
  • Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.
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  • Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
  • Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
  • Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

OKAY ALREADY. So how do you start laughing more?

Funny Dog Costume

Laughter breeds creativity

  • Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy,” find it’s possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event. The same holds for smiling. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling.
  • Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter. When in a state of sadness, we have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.
  • When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
  • Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
  • Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”

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  • Watch a funny movie or TV show.
  • Go to a comedy club.
  • Seek out funny people.
  • Share a good joke or a funny story.
  • Check out your bookstore’s humor section.
  • Host game night with friends.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Go to a “laughter yoga” class.
  • Goof around with children.
  • Do something silly.
  • Make time for fun activities (e.g. bowling, miniature golfing, karaoke).

To Find out more about Laughing Yoga.

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go out of your way to have a hearty laugh at least once a day, preferably with someone else. Waka Waka!

storm troopers

storm troopers

Kind of funny, right?

Much of the bulleted information taken from Help Guide.org

Many of the awkward family photos from awkwardfamilyphotos.com

Several other photos were snagged from one of my favorite wordsmiths, Capitol J

Mix It Up – Pull together your own adventure team

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You might not feel like GI Joe/Jane. Maybe somedays you look like Mr. T, but that’s besides the point…

You too can feel like one of the team…in your own urban non-cartoon kind of way.

I knew a group of coworkers who would come to my pilates class once in awhile. They had developed a plan where every week they took turns choosing an exercise activity. They mixed it up between spinning, pilates, yoga, walking, cycling, hiking, dancing, and on and on. The opportunities and inspirations are endless!

It’s a creative way to hang out with friends, get out of your comfort zone,  and try new things. Having a group means the onus is not always on you. Being a “team player” makes it easier to commit to keeping it up.

Don’t go much bigger than a group of 3 or 4, friends, couples, what have you, unless you have some very organized friends.

The laughter alone in trying new things is certain to put you in a better mood and enhance your creativity, if not burn a few extra calories along the way.

What are you waiting for? Remember, knowing is half the battle.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Choose Your Own Adventure

Let Go – Releasing tension essential for balance

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Feel like life is fueled by stress?

Without it, would nothing get done?

Is life about constantly running from one event or meeting to the next?

Long for a week or two vacation,  just sitting on the beach?

Welcome to the party.  You are one of the millions of tension junkies that believe this is what normal life should be.

Yeah. We need stress. It’s the necessary fight or flight instinct.  In modern life, encountering dangerous situations is rare, but, the instinct is always there. The human body is prepared for disaster. Tension junkies live in disaster mode everyday.

Among innumerable symptoms, prolonged stress breeds muscle atrophy and joint imbalance. Keeping the body in a high alert state creates significantly greater risk of petering out quickly…In other words, illness and ultimately death comes much faster. Nice thought, eh.

Constant stress and tension is unnecessary energy expended. It’s like running your car in the garage, day in and day out, keeping it ready because of the fear it might not work if you turn it off.  By learning to release stress, muscles lengthen, energy in the mind and body is preserved, and happiness ensues.

As a tension junky, here’s the most important realization to grasp right now:

The biggest challenge in modern society is to stop, relax and turn inward. Letting go will be the hardest part.

There it is. Challenged defined. Once realized, begin to attempt simple relaxing techniques. Whatever can be done, be it 20 minutes or 2 minutes, will get you on your way to being a more centered person.

progressive relaxation

progressive relaxation

#1. Find 15 minutes of solitude to practice progressive relaxation. It’s kind of like reverse psychology for yourself. Lying down is best for this, although you can sit up. Spend a few moments investigating each part of the body, inhaling and contracting, or bracing the muscles. Slowly exhale, releasing the bracing completely. Letting the muscles feel warm and heavy, completely relaxed. Try it a couple times from head to toe. After, scan to see if there are any remaining tension spots and focus extra attention on them.  Don’t skip a muscle: eyes, jaw, abdomen, even your toes.

#2. Find 10 minutes to focus on your breathing for relaxation. Inhale and take in fresh air and relaxation, slowly exhale out muscle stress and mind clutter, feeling your body sinking into the ground or chair.

#3. Find moments throughout the day when your stress responses are triggered. Your heart beats fast, breathing is shallow, flinching to avoid traffic, or the brain feels stressed. Recognize these moments and take a second to recover, breathing slowly, relaxing the muscles, and let your mind and body know that everything is okay. Being flexible and able to lower stress levels at will is great stress management.

Keep your brain in your body! Science has long separated the brain from the rest of the body. It is slowly bringing the two back together. Tension is not just held in your mind, it is held in the body, in every muscle and every cell. Research is beginning to coordinate movement, breathing, aesthetic therapies, even music and language skills, to create a more centered body and mind…a more healthy individual.

With that said, here is another stress lowering technique:

#4. Enjoyable exercise or activities brings stress levels down, and keeps the mind and body in balance.I must stress enjoyable. Treadmills might not cut it. Go Outdoors, swim, play an instrument, play with children, paint a picture, dance to music, find an outlet. Create your own release.

From an exercise perspective, effectively letting go of neck and shoulder tension, or hip tension, allows true movement from the center of the body. Keep this in mind when exercising. Explore different muscles in the core, by simply breathing and letting go.

Everyday life should be a balance of vacation and work, of stress and calm, of chaos and silence. Balance and flexibility make for a happier lifetime.relax-linea

The Easy TV Workout

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Missed your workout today, but not your favorite tv show?

So you’re at home watching The Housewives of New Jersey, or Mad Men, or Thirty Rock, or whatevers, and commercial break hits. Instead of hitting fast forward on your DVR, challenge yourself to my commercial break workout. Quick, easy, nothing is missed but some couch potato intermission drool.

The average commercial is approximately 30seconds. Most of these challenges require about 2 -4 commercials, although you could go the entire commercial break if you choose at some point. At this rate you could be getting in 5 minutes of exercise a day. Enough to make a difference in a week. You’d be surprised! Take the challenge!

BREAK #1. EXTENSION with Arm Push (Adapted from Somatic Patterning by Mary Ann Foster)

The arm push will strengthen rounded shoulders. Lying on your belly. Put both arms to the sides and bend your elbows. Palms are flat and all 5 fingers are touch floor! Widen and sink across the front of your chest. Reach your elbows out to the sides to widen across your shoulders. Keep your neck long by reaching out the top of your head. Slowly press your entire hands and forearms into the floor. Sense the force of the push traveling up your arms, into your back and down your spine Continue to push your arms down and out into the floor and raise your head and chest off the floor. Keep the back of your neck long. Let your chest feel broad, your neck free, and your spine feel long. The shoulder blades should be drawn together behind you. The arms stay straight. Hold for at least two commercials. If you feel pain in your back, walk your hands out in front of you further, or prop your belly with a pillow.  If you feel pain in your gluts or legs. Stop.

Extension with arm push

Extension with arm push

don't do this

don't do this

BREAK #2. FOREARM PLANK CHALLENGE

Nothing fancy about this one. Tried and true. Do not do it on your hands, thinking you are making it harder. On the hands is actually easier for your to avoid your core and to tense your shoulders. The forearm plank is good core stability work. Lengthen in the position. Keep stretching your chin and neck past your fists. Keep your armpits reaching for your hips. Hold at least 2 commercials.

Plank

Forearm Plank

BREAK #3. JUMPING JACK CHALLENGE

You know how to do them. So go for it. How many can you do in a commercial break?

Little tips: Try to keep your neck tension free by reaching through the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Pull your belly button to the spine to help from placing too much tension on the knees.

JUMPING JACKS

JUMPING JACKS

BREAK #4 BALANCE CHALLENGE: Balancing on one leg and toes

Practice you balance by standing on one foot for one commercial break. Shift to the other foot for the next commercial. And then balance on your toes for the third  commercial. You can always extend the time. Keep the thought of lift the spine and your posture in mind as you practice your balance. Let your eyes look up to where the wall and ceiling meet to help keep your neck long.

balance on one leg

balance on one leg

Balance on your toes

Balance on your toes

There you are. Not only did you get your tv time in, but your work out as well. Who knows? Maybe it will catch on and become the party game of every tv show watching party across America. Okay. So I’m dreaming big. You could also challenge your kids or grandchildren as well. No matter what, just have fun with it, perhaps making up your own commercial break workouts. Good Luck!

Make Yourself a Little Nervous (trapeze debut)

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We all have our imperfections we wish we could change. It’s hard to be a woman and not have body issues.  Nevertheless, I had always dreamed of doing something daring and pretty. St. Louis has Aerial Arts classes for adults. Without forethought, I registered.

I was by far the oldest in the class, the youngest, Ruby, was twelve. Intimidated by my own body, there were definitely feelings of doubt. The soreness and bruises in the beginning were pretty crazy. But the drive to prove to myself I could do this was so strong, that the bruises became marks of fierceness.

I had a goal: to get through 3 months of trapeze and perform in a recital. (It’s all I talked about for 3months). For the recital, I unwittingly invited everyone I could muster, realizing later, the stakes were now raised.

And I did it.

It’s imperfect, just like me, but beautiful in its imperfection. I did it.  I was a trapeze performer. Funny thing is, without realizing it, the shaping up and being healthier thing just happened. It was too much fun to notice. The whole experience has been mentally and physically exhilarating.

Which is why I am sharing it with you…not to mention every ex boyfriend and junior high nemesis to see. Geesh. I prefer internet photo anonymity, but I’m swallowing my pride and embarrassment hoping my experience can inspire someone else. Not to specifically do a trapeze class, but something new, just slightly out of your comfort zone. Make life a little more breath taking!

I’m Serious. Get out there and PLAY, damn it.

encouraging-adults-to-play-in-the-rain1When was the last time you hula hooped? juggled oranges? Played in a warm summer rain? Jumped rope or on a trampoline? Hung by your knees from the jungle gym?

Now hold up. Before the eye rolling begins, I want you to give it a serious minute. I want you to picture yourself hula hooping, in the backyard, with your children, grandchildren, or, niece and nephew. I can almost guarantee you want to smile just a little bit right now…in between the desire to eyeroll. Come on now. Embrace the cheese and let go.

Physical play is important as a child. It helps in motor skill development, exploration and curiosity inquiring into how things work. It is no different now. In a way it’s like riding a bike, you never forget, you just get rusty. You have to give yourself permission to let go, live a little, and just play.

We all know the benefits of exercise throughout our lifetimes. I’m just not convinced, however, that getting on the treadmill, or going to the gym really does it though. Let’s be honest. For most of us, it is not fun. You might feel better, or at least physically exhausted to match the mental work of sitting at a computer or in meetings all day, BUT, the thought of going to the gym does not make you smile. How can that truly be good for stress levels? Exercise soon becomes another “have to” or “should”, like bills and taxes. So now exercise get a bum rap.

Usually play and exercise are not thought of in the same category, especially for adults. The usual connection is play equals  embarrassment, or play only happens on Wii. Why should fun and “letting go” be so difficult? It is exercise too! Hula Hoops are great for coordination and the abdominals, back, and hips. The jungle gym is all about arm strength and balance, and jump roping, is pure aerobic activity. Coordination and balance tend to go as we age, but not so much if you continue to explore and challenge those skills in ways that are fun and relatively safe for the body.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get outside on one of these fine blooming spring days, go get yourself a hula hoop (and perhaps a child relative to make you feel less self conscious) or a jump rope.  Go to the park, find the playground, and play. And if you can’t? Most of us have one of those balance balls deflated in the house somewhere. Blow it up and jump around on it for 10 minutes or so, alternating legs, shifting your hips, going in circles…play with it.  If your mission is completed, I think you might be feeling a little better, smiling a little more, and acknowledging the kid inside never has to really go away.

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