Why Clowns? Because laughter is vital.
Researchers are gaining a deeper understanding of the effects trauma can have on a children’s development, especially in recent years with the rise of crises around the globe. It is estimated that 175 million children will be exposed to a major disaster by the end of the decade. We know that children are naturally resilient. We can enable their resilience and affect their growth and development through laughter and play. Studies have shown that initial symptoms of posttraumatic stress in children can decrease over the span of 8 to 20 months if they are able to return to their normal life as it existed before the trauma. However ongoing conflict can delay this time of healing. Displacement, for example to a refugee camp, is an overwhelming stress that significantly impedes healing from trauma.
Children need healthy environments to explore and expand their growing relationship with people, places, and experiences. Playing and socializing help children learn to build human relationships, trust, and empathy. Community violence can frustrate this process by restricting a children’s environment and limiting the range of social and intellectual experiences available. An unstable home environment significantly obstructs exploratory play. Violence restricts safe environments for growth. When families are victims of violence parent-child interactions are changed. Adult figures may display an increase in worry, over-protectiveness, and communicating a lingering sense of danger after a traumatic event. These reactions can intensify post traumatic stress responses in children.
Children in areas of crisis need safe outlets for expression and emotional relief. Laughter and humor provide social, emotional, physical and cognitive benefits. Laughter itself can stabilize blood pressure, improve circulation, restore homeostasis (balance), and induce relaxation. Studies have found a positive correlation between laughter and improvement in heart rate and respiration. Laughter can create a positive shift in self-concept or self-perspective and create behavioral changes through heightened feeling and emotion. Stress and anxiety negatively impact physical and mental health. When we experience positive emotions through laughter and play, endorphins are released, which reduce pain and generate feelings of wellness, and stress relief. Even the anticipation of something humorous, or faking a smile can dissolve negative emotions and produce happier ones. Laughter is contagious, and being surrounded by an emotionally positive atmosphere generates a greater sense of human connection.
In this TED Talk, CWB-USA’s Executive Director Molly Levine uses anecdotes from her work with CWB to highlight an overlooked global human need: connection. Levine, with the help of the clowns of CWB, brings laughter as a form of humanitarian aid to people living in the gravest, most disaster-stricken and war-torn zones of the world.