Shimmy and shake it off with nature

I, I shake it off, I shake it off.
I, I shake it off, I shake it off.

(Taylor Swift, 2014)

A joyous by-product of my fascination with biomimicry as introduced in Education: Biomimicry and becoming better beings, is a gathering of the powerful tips nature supplies for us to deal with the messiness of living. Of note, are effective strategies or tools that deal with anxiety or stress. Timely for me, as I hope, in this new decade to do more to progress my appreciation of aspects of our often over-looked or taken-for-granted nature which envelops our world. Its incredible beauty, significance and almost limitless source of design solution for human challenges, a draw on my attention.

Take the simple ‘Wet Dog Shake’. Nature has endowed the canine with a tremendously effective inbuilt system to quickly dry their coats. The physics behind this is fascinating. “A wet, furry animal shaking can generate a force 10 to 70 times greater than gravity” (Cole, 2015). Beginning at the head area, the energy wave propagates down the body so that head, body and skin all move to dispel the water. Within seconds, job done!

What’s more, shaking or tremoring, instead of suggesting fear or weakness, is actually an effective means for animals to dissipate stress. Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, in his book ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers’ claims many animals simply ‘shake it off, and get back to living in the moment. Now there’s a thought!. Which makes me want to jump now to the real origin of the power of the shimmy-ing shoulders of Taylor Swift in her catchy ‘Shake it off’ number.

Taylor explains ‘Shake it Off ‘ is a kickback to society’s takedown culture, where too many people, she believes look to twist something that you do into something weird, wrong, annoying, strange or bad (Swift, 2014). Six years on since its release, it continues to top the liberating ‘I don’t care what others think attitude‘ song-charts. Tracing the history of the ‘shimmy’ manoeuvres is, however, complicated and disputed. A number of sources leading a trail to 17th-century Haitian Voodoo dances, ”birthed from a “spiritual system infusing everything from medicine and agriculture to cosmology and arts” (Wall & Clerci, 2015).

So what does this all mean for my research, my pedagogy, my living?

This year I will continue to look to nature for inspiration, including tips on relief from anxiety, stress [and annoying people; thank you Taylor], that inevitably build with the relentless deadlines, responsibilities and demands of everyday life, work and research.
You may not find me shaking myself dry, but it’s likely you’ll catch me singing in true Tayloresque style, with a spot of shoulder shimmy-ing. If you do ‘catch me in a moment’, just note, I’m just tuning in to nature’s way to feel free, calm and alive.


Cole, L. (2015) ’The Physics of a Wet Dog Shake’ Canidae, 26th August 2015 [online]. Available: [6th January 2020].

Sapolsky, R.M. (2004) ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping’, 3rd Edition, Holt Books.

Swift, T. (2015) ’Taylor Swift Reveals ‘Shake It Off’ Meaning on ‘GMA’ (Interview). Available: [Accessed 7th January 2020].

Viegas, J. (2010) ‘Physics unravels wet dog shake’, ABC Science, 15th November 2010 [online]. Available: Accessed 7th January 2020].

Wall, K. & Clerici, C. (2015) ‘Vodou is elusive and endangered, but it remains the soul of Haitian people’, The Guardian, 7th November 2015 [online]. Available: [Accessed 7th January 2020].

Image: Tadeusz Lakota

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