Shake it off

Have you ever done the Hokey Pokey (or as Jon tells me, the Hokey Cokey if you’re British)? It’s a children’s song that picks one body part at a time and has everyone “shake it all around.” Then everyone sings,

You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

The final verse says to “put your whole self in,” which is my favorite verse because you get to shake your whole body and look completely silly.

Many years after I started singing this song, I was surprised to learn that shaking your body is actually an excellent response to stress that wild animals use to come down after a shock. For example, if a deer is attacked, it will first freeze in fear (hence the term “deer in the headlights”), then hopefully run away. If it survives, it will go find a quiet, safe place and let its body tremble and convulse until the stress response is dissipated.

I’ve actually tried this, and it works.

When I get upsetting emails or text messages, as I sometimes do, my first response is for my body to freeze, my heart to start racing, and thoughts of panic to run through my mind. I’ve learned to recognize that this is a signal that I need to calm my reaction down before taking any action.

So often I will go find a private space, close the door, and wiggle it all out. I really let loose! It doesn’t matter how ridiculous I look because no one is watching. And after I’m done shaking, I definitely feel calmer and ready to continue on with whatever life brings.

If you have any stress in your day today, why not take a wise lesson from the noble deer and the Hokey Pokey? Find a quiet corner and wiggle. Jump. Convulse. Jitterbug. Shimmy and wibble around. (Of course, if you have injuries, be mindful of how you move your sore parts.)

It may not be “what it’s all about,” but shaking your body could be a useful tool to add to your emotional resilience toolbox. I hope it helps you!

13 thoughts on “Shake it off

  1. Thanks, John. Very useful. Hadn’t thought of this. Next time I’ll try it, instead of jumping up and down and shouting in front of my wife and son (not a good example)!

    Does this also work when you’re on a high about something? I usually break into a run. My mum used to rub her face like a hamster – very amusing!!

    Btw, can I connect and re-blog on WordPress?

    1. A pleasure Andrew, although I can’t claim any credit for today’s post which is actually the work of Alex! I think we’ll need to find a way of making it clearer who writes what… sorry for the confusion.

      Yes please do re-blog on WordPress – we’re happy for the world’s mood to be nudged and it’s going to take lots of work to make that happen.

      Nice work though…

  2. Thanks Alex,

    This makes perfect sense, but it’s the first time that I’ve ever seen the technique mentioned! I’ll add it to my resilience list and must try it out.

    It’s great to receive MoodNudges every day 🙂


  3. Brill. Just what I needed this morning when I was letting stress get the better of me.
    Logging off to have a really good wiggle

  4. So interesting Alex. My dog also shakes if stressed ( well, also if wet ! ) She responds
    this way also if she and I are ‘ at odds ‘ over something, and perhaps she finds me
    incomprehensible ? ( Well – hardly surprising…as a dog has the mental ability, of maybe a two year old child. )
    I have learnt to ‘read ‘ my dog’s ‘ upsettness ‘ levels this way. It’s quite instinctive of
    her, and maybe we still have a lot to learn from animals.

    1. Diana (if that’s you Diana!)has a lovely dog so I think I will follow Binti’s example and be shaking rattling and rolling too. What a great idea Alex. We used to shake our bodies in Qui Chong (spell?) and I now know why.

  5. Just tried this out whilst making a cup of tea in the kitchen at work. Thankfully no one interrupted me! Can’t help but smile when you do it, and I didn’t feel like smiling before!

  6. I should perhaps add that my dog doesn’t ” shake “, as in tremble… it’s a deliberate
    shaking- off of ‘negativity ‘ , in exactly the same way, as she’d shake off water.
    Sometimes she ‘half’ shakes – perhaps she’s just a tiny bit
    irritated !

  7. That animals tremble with shock after a fright is true. Did you also know that they shake for exactly the length of time, to the second, that they felt threatened. So, shake and wiggle for as long as your body needs to let go of the stress.

  8. Hi, really enjoyed today’s “nudge”. Another good example of a tool for my mental health toolbox. With all the right tools it helps to then embark on your own DIY.

  9. Thanks for this idea.

    Just tried it. Felt pretty good and I liked it. And I thought, (because I was wondering about whether animals have this shake response) it doesn’t matter whether or not deer really shake themselves better. Because if I do this… physically move myself like this… I’m doing something symbolic. And breaking the inertia. And that’s good enough. It’s like, “let’s get rid of this stuff!!” 🙂

  10. I love this idea and hope I remember it after I freeze.
    I wanted to comment on another day but couldn’t get on the blog – is it just my computer that refuses to connect to aweber or is this a new permanent blog address?

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