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The importance of being silly

March 7, 2016
Melissa Marote , MOV Parent

I've always had a wacky side. But at times when work is super stressful, I sometimes feel tired and run down, and rather than turning a moment into an opportunity for silliness, I have found myself getting cranky and frustrated with my kids. At times I look at our home and begin thinking we are living in a toy box, and begin to feel overwhelmed at the disorganized messes around me. These are times I have a decision to make: get frustrated, or roll with the punches by taking a different perspective. It may sound strange, but trying to use such a moment to tap into your inner wacky side can be a force for positive change.

I recently began reading Gretchen Rubin's 2009 book, "The Happiness Project." In this book, the author sets goals to increase the happiness in her life. One of her stated goals was to be sillier. She noted that studies show there is a phenomenon called "emotional contagion" in which we unconsciously pick up the emotions from other people-for good or for ill. By taking the time to be silly, we increase the likelihood of generating happiness in those around us. Rubin stated people who enjoy silliness are one-third more likely to be happy. Another study showed that a person's T-cells increase after being silly. (T-cells help with our immune function.) This is not surprising. But, when we consciously try to "stop acting so childish," we forgo the benefits and delights of being silly.

When I was in graduate school, I began babysitting on the weekends to earn extra money and spend time with some little kids. I'd always enjoyed being with children, but it had been years since I'd babysat. I felt nervous when the mother wanted to stay to help her child feel more comfortable. I felt like I was on stage and that I had to be super entertaining and playful for her son. I felt rusty and out of practice it had been a long time since I'd played with a little kid. I had to remember how to be silly and use my imagination again. But it was pretty easy after a while, especially since I could often follow his lead. This experience reminded me that we sometimes get so used to living our lives in a serious manner that we forget how to have spontaneous fun and let go.

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One of the reasons I love my cardiokickboxing class is the instructor acts like a total goofball during the workout, sometimes breaking into spontaneous dance moves and singing, almost screaming out the lyrics of a song. She goads us to "Stop being so serious! SMILE! It burns more calories!" So, although this is the most difficult workout I've ever undergone, being able to laugh and have fun encourages me to forge ahead, and I almost forget how much I'm sweating and how hard I'm breathing.

Adults tend to regard silliness as something that is immature and foolish. But we should be able to laugh at ourselves and demonstrate this skill to our children. People who can laugh at themselves tend to be more resilient when times are challenging. So, the next time your child wants to play "Where's Scarlett?" for the hundredth time, try to have as much fun as she is having. You will soon find her happiness and silliness are rubbing off on you, and you are also smiling and having fun. Rubin stated that, when the family is putting away groceries, she sometimes uses fruit to make googly eyes at her kids. Or, one could take a banana and pretend to take a call, or use a breadstick as a light saber. If you feel a bit out-of-practice at being silly, just keep working on it. Your children will love you for it, and you will benefit from it, too.

Melissa Marote is a licensed professional clinical counselor and received her doctorate in counselor education from Ohio University.



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