Friday, August 27, 2010

Play Is a Four Letter Word

"The opposite of play is not work, it is depression!" Dr. Stuart Brown shares this and other important insights in his TED video .

For years I have believed and taught about Learning Through Play in my workshops on brain research and learning. My original training as an early childhood teacher made a powerful impact on my philosophy and as I learn more about brain science, stress and humor, I am convinced that play is a critical key to a healthy lifestyle. Play is especially important in the learning process and not just for early elementary students, but for ALL learners including high school and adults.

However, play is a four letter word. The very mention of play to a group of teachers will often produce visible signs of anxiety with verbal comments such as, "We just don't have time for frivolous activity" or "We are serious about learning here at SMART High School" Play is even being taken out of the kindergarten curriculum in many schools as related in this article in Science Daily; All Work and No Play. There are reports of schools being built without playgrounds---so pervasive is the mindset that play is the opposite of having learning.

We learn best through movement, strong emotions and yes--through play! Yet in every educator workshop on stress that I facilitate, teachers share their concerns about the decrease in time for play, the increased amount of stress they observe and how they know this stress is negatively impacting student learning.

According to an article by Susan Shepardson in Play; Priceless: "Psychologists believe that changes in children’s play have negatively impacted cognitive and emotional development. Because children’s activities are now more regulated by adults, children are not able to practice regulating them. Self-regulation is a crucial developmental task. Developmental neuroscience research provides evidence that free-play actually helps children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function"

So make today a PLAY DAY and have fun with this four letter word!

For more research links on play and learning go to the links on my Humor Quest web site

Friday, August 20, 2010

Humor and Aging

"It is just a sports injury!" I have been using that line lately to explain away my aches and pains while attempting to be humorous. A friend of mine and I always blame our joint issues on recent gymnastics or football activities. When I was younger, I swore that I would never be like the old people in my life--always talking about their aches and pains. It was sooooo boring! I remember that promise to myself as I am tempted to talk about my own "sports injuries".

When we fear something-like getting older-humor is an effective coping skill. We laugh about the things that we are afraid of. As boomers start the aging process, the humorous emails about aging are becoming more frequent in my "In Box". Here are a few of my favorites:

"I made a cover for my hearing aid and now I have what they call blue teeth, I think"

"I am retired. I was tired yesterday and I am tired again today".

"I'm so old that when I eat out, they ask for my money up front".

"Your secrets are safe with your friends, because they can't remember them either."

This is my own actual joke....or maybe not!
"My daughter calls at 9:00 p.m. and asks, "did I wake you up?" Actually you did honey....but I am so glad you called!

Actually, I really do love this time in my boomer life......10 grandchildren and the freedom to pursue my interests incuding education and humor! What more could a sports injured body ask for?

Oh yeah----a recent ad that I saw------" Cremation? Think outside the box!"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Joy is a Choice

Summer is slipping by so quickly! My intentions to spend more time relaxing and reading seemed to be quickly evaporating, so this past week, I picked up the book, Wired for Joy by Laurel Mellin. WOW!

The first chapter has such powerful insights into what we are learning about the brain. She says that the brain has an amazing capacity to create joy not by chance, but by choice. Is this true? Can we just "think" ourselves out of depression and bad moods?
Mellin entices us to read how to use your consciousness to create ripples of pleasure in your body. BUT the pleasure cannot be about anything that one acquires, ingests or injects. So shopping, food and alcohol might bring momentary pleasure but not true joy.

According to Mellin most stress is caused by having too many stress circuits and too few joy circuits. She advocates EBT, Emotional Brain Training, a recognition of the possible 5 different brain states that one might be experiencing and how to change the circuits to a higher level state. I find this book to be a great resource.

As I prepare for several upcoming workshops on the role of stress in learning, I will include this book as a resource for participants along with Dr. Earl Henslin's book, This Is Your Brain On Joy His book includes images of a stressed brain and a peaceful brain. Brain imaging technology is adding an incredible amount of information to our knowledge base.

So as I was in a perfectly awful mood on one day last week......I decided to try to choose joy. It was difficult but the process was interesting.....and eventually I hope to live more often in level I and 2 as described by Mellin and be kinder to myself when I am stressed.