I am a homeschooling parent, a skilled and knowledgeable movement specialist, and a brain science geek. I KNOW that less stress equals greater access. I teach self-care and regulation. I know that the endorphins released when we laugh, sleep, and move are natural opiates and, per Dr. Reggie Melrose, our most effective self-regulators. They relieve pain, release stress, elicit an immediate feeling of well-being, and bring us back into the zone of optimal arousal. Yet, do I fluidly flex my personal agenda whenever I see that my children are tired or wired? Do I send them bounding outside to expend their restless energy whenever they are inattentive and under focused? Do I have a 30 minute nap time consistently set aside during our day? Ha! I wish I were that perfect.
Even though I know that laughter, napping, and movement all mean less stress and optimized learning and behavior, it is not always easy to put aside that personal agenda. Just like most of you, I often allow myself to get ‘stretched’ and humor challenged. I just want to push through in order to keep up with my preset time schedule. The To-Do List wins out over WELL-BEING, argh …
So, for those of you, who like me, need more reminders from science to validate slowing down and having more fun, I am sharing research. There is nothing more relaxing for me than a good research article (it’s a quirk, I know.) This kind of information always gives me the kick in the pants to do what serves me and my children best in the long run.
Laughter is the best medicine for mind and body.
- Immediately relieves physical stress and tension
- Boosts the immune system
- Protects the heart by improving the function of blood vessels
- Triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals
- And stress makes us serious . We all know this from our own experience. So, next time you notice you’ve lost your sense of humor… Stop and shake it off, literally, like a wet dog.
The more you nap, the better you learn, behave, and perform.
- Improves memory and is essential to the brain’s ability to learn new information. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20445820_2,00.html
- Crucial for ALL preschool age children to manage stress and be successful learners. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/23/midday-nap-helps-preschool-children-learn-new-study,
- Lowers blood pressure and improves behavior and performance regardless of age. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/WaterCooler/story?id=124677
We all learned this truth from Mister Rogers, who, like the young children he entertained, took an afternoon nap daily. Another napper, whom you might not know about, was Winston Churchill, who slept every day from 5 – 6:30 pm while he ran a country. I only let myself nap regularly when I was pregnant!
And then there’s my favorite science guy, Dr. John Medina, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School and Brain Rules for Baby. His videos about exercise and the brain are AWESOME – informative, fun, and funny. Take a break with your kids and watch. You’ll learn some cool stuff that your kids can remind you about next time you want to force your way through the day!
Exercise boosts brain power.
Zaps harmful stress chemicals
- Boosts problem-solving, planning, and attention
- Improves memory and concentration
- Stimulates neurotransmitters such as BDNF
- Grows and strengthens neural connections
- Supports a positive outlook
“Movement is Miracle-Gro for the brain”. John Ratey, A User’s Guide to the Brain