In children social play is critical to the development of social skills and emotional intelligence. Restricted play results in deficient social skills which can lead to life-long physical, mental, emotional and social problems. Laughter promotes childlike playful behavior. New research shows that playful adults continue to learn social skills and improve their emotional intelligence. Learning requires that one lower what linguists call the “affective barrier.” You can’t be uptight and learn much. You have to ease up and laugh to create.
Laughter sessions with children
Laughter Yoga and the Laughter Wellness program work extremely well with children and help add more laughter into their lives. They promote group laughter without the needs for humor or jokes. They have proved very effective in schools as they help to eliminate the factors that cause stress levels among students and hinder healthy relationships. The Laughter Wellness program in particular has a structure that children respect: a beginning and an end. There is a time to laugh, and a time not to laugh.
Major stress factors in children today
- Low Concentration: Studies show a huge leap in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children with this disorder are extremely hyperactive and find it difficult to concentrate for even short periods. In the US, one in 18 school children now suffer from ADHD and half of those are being treated with the psycho-stimulant drug Ritalin. The number of children with this disorder rose by a huge 600% from 1990 to 1998 and the US has five times more cases than the rest of the world put together. In the UK the same actions have resulted in the same problems, with Ritalin prescriptions shooting up from 2,000 to more than 90,000 in six years. Children with the disorder are extremely hyperactive and find it difficult to concentrate for even short periods. They act on impulse and often appear to have no sense of danger.
An extended hearty laughter improves blood circulation and flushes the lungs of stale residual air. This helps in better concentration power, increases the learning ability and helps to enhance academic performance.
- Academic Pressure: Children faced with a competitive academic environment from early age are being pressured by their parents and teachers to attain excellent grades. Schoolwork results in many symptoms of stress and high social anxiety.
As they learn to laugh unconditionally, children become adept at handling pressure as laughter builds self confidence and the ability to handle stress by boosting the immune system and releasing endorphins in the brain which kick start good feelings and reduce stress.
- Parental Pressure: many children are pressurized by their parents to perform better. The expectations often leads children to strive for unrealistic goals which, as they get unfulfilled, can bring on serious stress and prove to be detrimental to their mental and physical health.
- Lack of Emotional Bonding: the increase of “broken homes” and the consequent lack of emotional bonding and long-term relationships with parents or responsible adults combine to cause a host of emotional problems. In the UK alone parents are spending the equivalent of more than $150 a month on treats for their children to compensate for lack of quality time with them. Here some statistics for Britain’s 11-14 year olds:
- 75% have TV in their bedroom
- Two-thirds have DVD or Video player
- 25% have computer
- 80% have their own mobile phone
- Thirty percent of UK children never play outside without an adult watching over them.
- In 2005 359,000 children were prescribed Ritalin and 130,000 were prescribed SSRI antidepressants
- Lack of Exercise: Children whose natural energy is traditionally expressed in movement, laughter and play are being forced to sit still and concentrate for extended periods from an early age (the joke goes like this: adults do everything they can to get infants to get up and talk during the first 2 years of their lives, and then struggle for 18 or more years to get them to sit down and shut up). Laughter Yoga and the Laughter Wellness program are a unique workout regime that oxygenates the blood and other organs, leaving them full of energy and physically fit. It’s also a great indoor activity when the weather does not permit the practice of outdoors sports.
Laughter With Teenagers
Teen stress is an important health issue. We know that the early teen years are marked by rapid changes. They are faced with demands of college and parents to perform and achieve goals that may be unrealistic. Not meeting these goals often leads to anxiety that is detrimental to physical and mental health, in some cases even resulting in suicidal tendencies.
Teenagers laugh a lot with peers but when they interact with elders they close up and become very protective about conveying their emotions. They go into their shell and want to play it safe. They are afraid of feedbacks and are extremely awkward in their actions. Being on the threshold of adulthood, they are afraid of facing the challenges of growing up.
Note that while laughter exercises are very beneficial for teenagers, these also tend to be the hardest group to work with as they start using their mental faculty to rationalize their laughter and behavior and it can be difficult to get them to “just fake it”. Talking helps greatly. Getting to explain why laughter is good and discuss how they could add more laughter into their life is also helpful. What you do then is slowly weave some laughter exercises in the conversation. Everything else is learning curve.
Major Teen Stressors
- Puberty: children change physically and emotionally at the onset of puberty. This can be a time of conflict between parents and children. In fact it may be more alarming to the parents if there are no conflicts at all, as it may be a sign that their child is hiding their problems which can lead to suppressed feelings and emotions, in effect harming the mental psyche. Extended hearty laughter induced by Laughter Yoga and the Laughter Wellness program are extremely beneficial as it helps to release these pent up feelings and emotions from the sub-conscious mind through effective emotional catharsis.
- Parental Inconsistency: During this transitional phase parents tend to raise their expectations and become quite inconsistent in their behavior. They sometimes want their children to behave like kids and sometimes like adults. Don’t do this, you’re a kid; You can do this, you’re big enough. These instructions send confusing signals to children and they become self protective and draw back into their shell. Laughter helps to dissipate thoughts of distrust and hostility arising out of continuous confrontations with parents. Laughter releases endorphins that kick starts good feelings and changes the mood state almost immediately.
- Changing Relationships: Puberty is a time of life when the child begins to feel liberated. But support from parents is still of paramount importance. Parents are not only a safety net, but also the platform from which the child can eventually experience the whole world. Laughter helps to boost the self-confidence and encourage a great network of healthy relationships. It encourages team building and eliminates feelings of aggression, jealousy and antagonism.
- School Demands: As teens step into the threshold of adulthood, they experience a changed environment all around them. Their new found freedom also brings in new pressures of performance, competitiveness, and striving for excellence. All these lead to stress and tensions which at times can prove fatal. Laughter has the ability to reduce stress symptoms and provide a feeling of wellness.
- New Responsibilities: Teens learn about their role in the family and the importance of helping others. As they become older, they take on new responsibilities. A hearty laughter helps to develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. It boosts self esteem and helps them to perform better in every sphere of life.
Laughter Yoga and the Laughter Wellness program are a physical exercise that works on the body and mind simultaneously. They boost systems that are switched off or disrupted by stress, especially the circulatory and digestive systems. They stimulate willingness to learn and retention improves creativity and self discipline. They provide tools to deal with stressful situations in new ways, providing an alternative to anger and aggression and resulting fear.
Laughter with college students
Johns Hopkins psychologist Ron Berk, Ph.D. conducted a study where he administered the same test to two groups of students in the same graduate level biostatics course. The students who were given funny instructions on their test — as opposed to simply didactic ones — averaged “significantly” higher test scores.
He shared several tips for injecting humor into your teaching in a 2005 article in Teaching Excellence (Vol. 17, No. 2):
- Make your syllabus funny. Insert jocular descriptors like the greatest class youll ever take under your course title, put funny prerequisites for the course like requiring students to have read War and Peace or list outrageous office hours, such as available from 12 to 12: 01 p.m. so that students actually read your syllabus.
- Use real or hypothetical humorous situations. Tap cartoons, TV clips and other examples to enliven abstract concepts. For instance, psychologist Randy Garner, PhD, uses American Idol audition episodes to illustrate self-handicapping and selection bias.
- Ask punch-line questions during question and answer sessions. Set up a joke by asking a question. After getting a response ask, How many of you think this is the correct answer? Then, add the punch, How many of you dont care? or How many of you dont like to be awakened during class?
- Make questions and examples outrageous, ridiculous or exaggerated. For instance, Berk asks students to analyze whether nurses who routinely participate in the sport Knock the Physician Off the Pedestal will demonstrate higher levels of joy than nurses who absolutely refuse to engage in such irreverent behavior by performing the separate variance T-test.
- Dramatize your material. Develop skits or demonstrations with music to illustrate theories, concepts and processes. In a parody of The Odd Couple, Berk wears a backward baseball cap and ill-fitting clothes while holding a large cigar as he stands alongside an impeccably dressed colleague. He asks his students to list the similarities between the two faculty members. Then, Berk has students compute a Pearson correlation and square it, which is the percentage of variance explained of one variable by the other.
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We all have two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you only have one. Confucius