Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Start the year with some simple movements that are scientifically proven to lift your spirits!

Hello and Happy New Year,

I was pondering ideas for an interesting topic for my January blog post, when I received an email from Zak Morgan, a friend who is a Grammy-nominated musician and songwriter, with several albums and DVD's for children.  Zak and I have done many workshops together over the years, at NAEYC, OAEYC, and also the Keynote at the Bowling Green University Early Childhood conference.  

Connie and Zak at the Bowling Green Early Childhood Conference, 2009

Zak's email included a link to a recent talk at the TEDxJaffa conference, which he knew I would find very interesting: 

The talk is only about 15 minutes long, and if you have a chance, please listen to the link itself. Dr. Tal Shafir, a dance therapist, did research to find out which movements and movement qualities help us to feel better, and which ones make us feel unhappy, fearful, and tense.  I will sum up the gist of her findings here, so that you, and the children in your care, can start out the new year with some simple movement ideas to uplift your spirits.

One of my favorite dance quotes is from Vicki Baum:  There are shortcuts to happiness, and for me dancing is one of them.  Well, Dr. Shafir's talk at TEDxJaffa shows us how that quote can be backed up with scientific research!  She alludes briefly to what movements make us feel afraid, tense, and unhappy. They include crouched, closed-in postures and moving heavily, so we want to try to avoid those as much as possible.  

Dr. Shafir outlined four movements from her research that do the opposite; they make us feel happy.  And the best news of all is that they are simple, and are easily incorporated into our daily lives:

  • Lightness.  Try to tread softly and with a buoyancy and weightless quality as you move throughout your day.
  • Expanding the body in the horizontal and vertical.  Stretch when you first wake up; try to do it several more times throughout the day.  Sit up straight, elongate your torso, open your chest, lengthen your neck.
  • Upward movement, which includes jumping, hopping, skipping, and raising the arms.
  • Repetitive rhythmic movements, which is what comprises most dances.  An interesting recent study in Germany that Dr. Shafir cited showed that doing the Israeli folk dance called the Hava Nagila was more effective in reducing depression than riding an exercise bike!

Dr. Shafir closed her talk by referring to the Nike quote Just Do It, and said what she likes to say is Just Dance It.  And I will close my usual way, by saying,

Keep on dancin'!

Happy 2014,


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