Why Do People Jump When They Are Excited?

why do people jump wen thy are excited?


Luca, Age 5

Dear Luca,

Well, some people jump up and down when they are excited. Like most five-year-olds. People like me with neurological issues (when I unexpectedly see my friend Johanna, who has cerebral palsy,  a jolt of happiness runs through us and we both jerk and flail because we react to our blood pressure rising that way. I imagine it is rather entertaining to watch). Women who know they are being filmed during elaborate marriage proposals. Teenagers who get into the college of their dreams. People on game shows who have won a lot of money. Although maybe they just see a big, lit-up sign that says: “Jump up and down!” next to the “applause!” sign that the audience sees.

Some people do other things when they are excited. I, for instance, swear swears and punch people in the arm. Others smile very brightly, clap their hands, or just stand very still in astonished happiness. Some people even whisper when they are excited.

The answer, I think, has to do with the mind-body connection. You know how when you have done something you know will get you into trouble, you feel sick in your stomach? There is no reason for you to feel sick except your mind telling you to. That is the mind-body connection. Also, it goes in reverse: when you feel sick to your stomach because of a flu, it makes your brain miserable, as well.

And sometimes, when we feel a very powerful emotion like excitement, we need to show our feelings with a big, powerful movement. For many of us, that is jumping. It uses our biggest muscles (gluteus maximus, our butt muscles, and our quadraceps, in our thighs). It also makes us feel like we’re flying for a second. If you think about it, the feeling of excitement is a tiny bit like the feeling of flying, don’t you agree?

When you get older, you might notice that you are jumping up and down less. I’m not sure whether this is because adults feel emotions like excitement less intensely, or if it’s because we are socialized to be very dignified.

Not that any of us have any idea what ‘dignified’ really is. For instance, for some ridiculous reason I think swearing and hitting is more grownup than jumping up and down, even though some of the first lessons I learned in preschool were to not hit or say bad words.

I showed this to my own 11-year-old, because he knows a lot more about science than I do, hoping he might come up with a better answer for me.

He narrowed his eyes. “Why aren’t you jumping up and down right now?” He asked. “Jumping up and down is fun.”

And then I understood pogoing, and wished it didn’t give me shin splints.

So I guess my short answer is: being excited about something is fun!Jumping up and down makes it even more fun. I really think that’s probably all there is to it. Also growing up makes you kind of boring, unless you have brain damage like me and my friend Johanna do.

This letter originally ran in bitterempire.com on October 15, 2015.

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