By Sara Wiseman
Parents and grandparents are always seeking ways to help kids wind down. Yet so often the common choice: putting on a movie—actually stresses kids out more. That’s because most mainstream children’s media is over stimulating. Instead of relaxing children, it winds them up, makes them anxious or zones them out—the exact opposite of what’s intended.
In choosing children’s media that will positively benefit kids, three elements are key according to Dr. Steve Koc, an Oregon chiropractor who’s worked for 40 years helping clients of all ages relax, de-stress and heal. “Nature, music, and humor are powerful healers,” said Koc. “Each element by itself is a natural de-stressor that creates physiological and hormonal shifts in the body. When you combine them together, you have a powerful agent for relaxation and stress relief.” It’s not the first time the healing properties of nature, music, and laughter have been noted by the scientific and holistic communities.
A Japanese study found that those who practiced shinrin-yoku (walking and staying in forests) experienced greater stress reduction. Dr. Masura Emoto, author of Messages from Water, gained worldwide acclaim for his research in vibrational sound, and Dr. Mitchell Gaynor documents his findings in The Healing Power of Sound. The acclaimed Norman Cousins researched the healing power of laughter in his book The Anatomy of an Illness.
Koc became so intrigued by the idea of using these three elements—nature, music, and laughter—for stress relief, he created Gnomies World, an award-winning animated children’s movie designed to help kids relax. The film follows the adventures of the Gnomies, a merry band of characters who live deep in the woods, go on peaceful adventures in nature, and bring laughter to all. “On the one hand, Gnomies World is light and frivolous,” said Koc. “Yet there is an underlying science in the making of this movie that is designed for deep healing. As one gets immersed into the world of the Gnomies, the brain and body are affected in uplifting and healing ways.” “In my four decades of clinical practice, I’ve always sought out natural ways to assist the healing process. I’ve found very good results using breathing exercises, along with visual images that create a state of inner peace, and sound healing,” Koc said. “Gnomies World uses all of these modalities in addition to the laughter response, to create a state of relaxation in the body,” Koc said. Because of this, the film differs from most children’s media in several key ways:
Peace and kindness
“There’s no violence in the film,” said Koc. “The Gnomies are kind and respectful to each other. Nowadays, popular children’s shows are loaded with sarcasm, witty put downs, and attitudes of ‘me, me, me.’ This negativity disguised as humor trains children and adults to think and act in ways that lead to negative outcomes. There is an intention to create peace and harmony through this film. There is an intention to leave the audience in a state of higher vibration or attunement. There is an intention to uplift those who watch it,” Koc said.
“What we watch and listen to feeds our thoughts and feelings. When we focus on positivity, we reap the benefits in physical and emotional health,” he noted.
Nature also plays a starring role in the film.“Without doubt, nature heals,” said Koc. “The studies are clear about the benefits of being in natural settings, with practices like forest bathing, earthing, green spaces, and being outside. From a healing perspective, the benefits of exposure to nature are pretty much the same as the benefits from laughter itself: stimulation of the immune system, reduction of stress, and relaxation of the muscles.”
Gnomies World is designed to bring real-life, non-commercialized, actual nature to children. It was filmed on 12 private acres in the Oregon forests south of Portland. “I spent a lot of times outdoors,” said Koc. “I spent hours wandering amongst the trees, moss, and mud with a camera.” Reviewing the footage, Koc was surprised to see unexpected nature show up: “Out of nowhere, a frog jumped onto one of the Gnomie’s heads, and a curious hummingbird dropped by. A bumblebee showed up unexpectedly. Nature is always interacting with us in wonderful ways.”
The soundtrack is specifically designed to create a healing response in the body. An expert in sound healing: Koc has produced four award-winning healing music CDs, and has used sound healing in his clinical practice for forty years. “Sound therapy is well-documented as a healing modality. The way we choose beats, tones, and vibration creates changes in the physiology,” he said. “The movie is imbued with original music that helps relax and release tension.”
Laughter—the best medicine
“Plain and simple, laughter heals,” said Koc. “The mind and body let go of stress when we laugh—and this true for both children and adults. The feel-good chemicals of the brain, endorphins and the like, are enhanced while at the same time the stress-related chemicals such as cortisol and epinephrine are reduced. It’s well-documented that the immune system also gets a healthy boost as a result of laughing, and our breath and circulation are affected in positive ways.”
In 2016, Gnomies World won Best Animated Film at the Northwest Comic Fest, and Official Selection at the Oregon Independent Film Festival. Gnomies World is available on DVD from Beyond Words Publishing. For information, visit www.gnomiesworld.com
How to choose children’s media that relaxes instead of revs up.
Here are five key elements proven to create physiological shifts in the body, and help your kids relax.
- Healing nature.Studies show that observing nature creates a shift in the body’s physiology.
- Sound therapy. Music is well known to shift mood. Look for music that creates relaxation in the body.
- Laughter and humor. The laughter response is well documented as an effective way to relieve stress and release feel-good endorphins in the body.
- Peace and positivity: Snarky sarcasm may seem funny, but this type of “put down” humor loads kids with negative thoughts.
- Slower pacing: Modern media is over stimulating to kids. Look for slower, more organic pacing that doesn’t keep kids on edge.
The benefits of nature, music and laughter are well-documented for stress relief. Here are a few.
National Geographic: This is your brain on nature
University of Minnesota: Changes in health care setting: how does nature impact healing, reducing stress by adding nature images
Healing Images: Company places nature images in medical settings for healing
Publish Health Journal, University of Kyoto: Psychological effects of forest environments on health
Science Magazine: View through a window may influence recovery from surgery
Chopra Center: Healing through nature
Norman Cousins: Anatomy of an Illness
About the author:
Sara Wiseman is a Nautilus award-winning author. She writes the Daily Divine blog and is a frequent contributor to national and regional publications in spirituality and holistic health.