crab apples with grumpy faces

Feeling crabby? I suggest yelling and throwing things!

That’s right, you heard me correctly.

When we are stuck in a negative emotion like anger, I firmly believe that the best way forward is to do something physical and playful to shift our energy. 

Recently I discovered a physical activity that was so much fun and helped me to let go of some negativity. 

I was having a rough day and was dwelling on a few experiences that had hurt my feelings. I wanted to be present and enjoy the moment, but my anger and hurt kept pulling me away. 

My mom and I were walking along the Bruce Trail. During our walk I shared with my mom about what was on my mind, and about my struggle to let go of the negative feelings.

rolling hills in autumn

As we walked and talked, we kept passing these lovely little trees full of rosy, red apples. After listening to me, my mom suggested that we collect some apples, one for each of the things that was bothering me. The idea was that we would assign a hurt feeling to each apple, and then throw them away in a physical act of letting go. 

apple tree and trail marker

hand holding a crab apple

I was intrigued. I collected five perfect apples, one for each of my injuries. I enjoyed composing some photos with them. Then I carried them along the trail for a while. They felt awkward in my pocket. They didn’t all fit in my hands. They were a bit heavy, and a bit sticky. But I wasn’t ready to let them go just yet. 

five red crab apples stacked in a tree

five crab apples arranged horizontally along a branch

Near the end of our walk, we came to a hill. It was a steep climb to the top and as we went up, a ravine dipped beside us. I knew that this was the perfect place to let my crab apples and crabby feelings go. I was ready. 

photo of a forest ravine

I took a deep breath and lifted my arm back with the first apple. Then, with a shout, I threw it as far as I could down the ravine. 

It felt SO GOOD. It was fun, it felt powerful, it was freeing. I did it again with the next apple, letting out an even louder shout. 

By the time I got to the last apple, my mom and I had dissolved into giggles. My anger was gone. My energy had shifted from negativity to silliness. I had space again to enjoy the moment, and to express gratitude to my mom who invited me through this physical letting go process. It turns out that you are never too old to accept some co-regulating help from your parent! 

This wasn’t a planned activity. It was pure serendipity. But it was so helpful that I wanted to share it with you. It turned around a bad day for me, and I think it could do the same for your family. It could help kiddos get unstuck from a pattern of negativity. It could help you to teach them the art of physically and emotionally letting go of angry energy. 

boy covering his face with his hands
Photo by Annie Spratt

I like this activity because it allows for a really intense physical release without hurting anyone or anything. It provides a safe avenue for some throwing and yelling – things that are usually off limits. And when they are done safely, throwing and yelling can feel really good. It’s fun to do something that’s usually not allowed. It feels special and subversive. 

black and white photo of boy yelling
Photo by Jason Rosewell

This activity also involves going outside, breathing fresh air, and moving our bodies – three more things that help to shift negative energy. You can adapt the idea for each season. Apples can be replaced with pine cones, snow balls, or even fallen sticks. Adult supervision is essential to make sure that the nature objects are thrown in a safe direction.

two children walking outside
Photo by Annie Spratt

So here’s my advice. The next time you or your kiddo are feeling crabby, I suggest that you go outside and safely throw some things. Let out that negative energy. Yell or scream and experience the release. I hope you will find that after a few throws, the anger turns to openness and the yelling is replaced by giggles. 

Here’s a recap of this silly anger-melting strategy:

  1. Go outside for a nature walk together.
  2. Collect some nature objects (crab apples, pine cones, fallen sticks). Collect enough that you will be able to throw them for a few minutes.
  3. Find a safe spot to release your nature objects.
  4. Explain to your child that you are going to do a special exercise to let go of your negative feelings. Invite your child to think about the feeling they are struggling with. It might be anger, disappointment, frustration, hurt, or plain old grumpiness. Explain the rules to ensure everyone has a safe experience. 
  5. Take a deep breath, and raise up one of the nature objects in your hand. 
  6. Release the nature object with all your might! Let out a scream, shout, or yell as you throw it.
  7. Repeat until you feel a little bit better. In my experience it only takes a few minutes. 
  8. Reflect for your child how this physical action has helped you to move through a negative feeling and let it go. Help your child to understand that they may not be able to choose the feelings they experience, but they have the power to decide what to do with them.

Written by Rubi Garyfalakis, DTATI, RP, RCAT