Skip: move along lightly, stepping from one foot to the other with a hop or bounce.  We all skip as children so when do we stop skipping? Why do we stop skipping? Find out more and then let’s get skipping again!

Joyful skipping

If you had seen me during the last two weeks of May, you would probably have seen me skipping!  We had Max (6yo) and Summer (3yo) staying with us and whenever we held hands as we were walking somewhere (which was often), we would skip.  And we would be smiling.

I don’t think you can be sad while skipping. In fact, most people whom we skipped past also started smiling. It’s infectious. Skipping is a happy thing to do.

It is a joyful action. And all kids seem to do it. Is skipping a cross-cultural thing? 

Are children taught to skip? Does it come naturally as another form of movement? 

And did you know that some birds, lemurs and lizards also use skipping gaits as a way of getting around each day? Does it make them happy, I wonder?

When did you stop skipping?

When did your children or you stop skipping? Was it a specific age? A developmental marker?  Is it a change in our brain?

Two ways of approaching happiness

By understanding the different approaches to happiness as children and adults, we may begin to understand why we stop skipping. 

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate for this work on behavioral economics suggests we have two ways of approaching happiness: through an experiencing self and through a narrative self. 

The experiencing self is responsible for the in-the-moment feelings of joy while the narrative self is focused on the memories we have or the evaluations we make.  For the narrative self, happiness is all about our level of life satisfaction and success.  

So, the experiencing self is direct happiness – being happy in our life, while the narrative self is indirect happiness – being happy with our life. 

As we go from childhood to adulthood, the balance between the two seems to shift. We go from joy to satisfaction. From play to work. From experiencing self to narrative self.

In adults, the narrative self becomes the default network. The area of the brain that is involved with the narrative self, is the same area used for decision making – the pre-frontal cortex and the hippocampus. It seems the more decisions we make, the more we use that part of the brain for happiness too.

As children, we have little control over our lives and we focus our attention on making the most of the experiences our parents and other adults dictate for us. As we grow up, we decide how we spend our days, years and decades. We choose how to spend our lives. 

It seems a shame that the very process of making our own decisions leads us to spend most of our lives focused on building the narrative of our lives at the expense of living the experience. 

Let’s get skipping

So maybe skipping can shift us back into our living the experience of happiness mode and help us enjoy the moment. We don’t have to be busy forming a narrative – just skip! Maybe it’s a bit like “first, last, and only” that I mentioned in my last blog post. And also one of Harold’s life lessons.  Instead of defaulting to being happy with our life, let’s add in some being happy in our life. We have both options – let’s use them.

And while you are doing it, you are also using up energy so it’s a good exercise. Skipping actually uses up about 24 percent more power than running at the same speed.  You may wonder why. It’s all to do with the gluteus maximus muscle not having a long tendon to the lower leg. Thus to raise the lower leg to skip, we need to use more energy than we do to run where we don’t raise our legs so much.

Why don’t we make June the International Month of Skipping!  Grab your friend or partner’s hand next time you are walking together and start to skip! Or just skip on your own.  Others will encourage you with their happy smiles. Don’t be put off by thinking you will look childish.  You are actually just tuning into your experiencing self that we all too frequently neglect as adults. 

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