We could learn a lot from rats. Which is why rats get studied more than any other animal on the planet. Kinda. The most studied is probably the fruit fly. But rats and mice are the most studied invertebrates, because they reproduce quickly, and their little rat brains are a lot like yours. #sadbuttrue
Lick A Rat
An interesting body of research was performed on rats by neuroscientist Michael Meaney, at McGill University. Meaney found that there are 2 types of rat mamas. Those who do a lot of licking and grooming of their little rat babies. And those who don’t. I don’t blame those mamas who don’t want to lick their rat babies. After all, they are rats. But it turns out that a little rat licking helps them keep on ticking.
‘Eeny’ Meany and his crew of Miny Moes discovered that the licking and grooming does a lot to reduce levels of stress in little ratlings. Imagine a baby rat is having a bad day. She saw her friend get chomped in a trap. Or she just watched the opening scene to Ratatouille. Or found out that a builder in New York City was not using union labor. That stuff stresses her out. One of the best ways to dissipate that stress is to have your mama lick you, groom you and make you feel all better.
Long Term Effects
It turns out that there are huge long-term benefits to the lick’n and the groom’n. In fact, the Licking Grooming Mamas help reduce stress so that the long-term elevation of stress-related chemicals in the body doesn’t usher in illness, disease and death. Even better, researchers found that rattlings who were raised by the LG Mamas were bolder, braver and better equipped for the stresses of life over the long haul.
We can apply this finding to humans too. When parents perform the human equivalent of licking and grooming, the benefits are immense. By hugging, doting, soothing, comforting, and spit-cleaning children’s faces, parents are helping to reduce stress. In turn, they are also improving their children’s health by reducing the stress in their bodies and reducing the threat of disease. Of course, the kids could still die from embarrassment, but that’s on them.
Licking Your Coworkers
You can carry this finding to the workplace too. While your HR handbook may say that you can’t lick your coworkers, you can certainly show care, compassion and concern for your work mates and direct reports. By doing so, we can not only make the workplace more enjoyable, we can actually help make employees happier, reduce stress and illness. And even help our coworkers live longer, happier lives.
Lick and groom those you are responsible for. Show them that you care. Let your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family know that they are not alone. Go Bob Marley on them and let them know that every little thing is gonna be alright. Not only will you help them feel better in the near term, you could help them live longer, healthier lives.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.