Giggling is Good for the Soul!
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, a time when we are being encouraged to ‘build meaningful connections’ and what better way than to laugh together? There are so many ways in which our world today may seem relentlessly grim: climate change, Covid, the cost of living, war in Ukraine and ongoing political shenanigans; all of which wear us down on a daily basis and make us want to crawl back under the duvet covers and hide. We all need a quick fix to help brighten our days and, preferably, one that is easily accessible and cheap! This is where gentle, infectious laughter comes into its own.
Laughter is an obvious sign than we are experiencing a moment of happiness, but there is more than one type. Laughter is mostly a positive reaction, but it also can be used as a weapon to tease, mock or bully; it can be a defence mechanism used to deflect or conceal; it can even be a hysterical reaction. We all find different things funny, and may prefer satire, slapstick, observational or toilet humour; there’s something for everyone. There is a role for comedy to expose, reveal, probe and shock and there is much debate about where the red lines of comedy lie, as experienced recently by Chris Rock. So how do we find a universal balm for the ills of the world, one that is comforting and brings people together rather than alienating or offending anyone?
The power of laughter is well recognised in terms of its physical and mental health benefits and, while we can splash out on laughter therapy, a laughter retreat or a comedy night, we can also access its restorative powers much closer to home by finding its joy in the small things which make you giggle. Here are three sources of comedy gold for which you will only need a close friend/ relative or an internet connection – enjoy them!
Do you remember when…….?
Going for a walk with someone you have known for a while is a great source of ‘do you remember when?’ stories. The ones that make you laugh fondly about shared experiences and people, and the ones that can still make you groan and blush with mortification. These bittersweet stories hark back to kinder, more secure times (even if it’s a rose-tinted view). The nostalgia bubble brings a similar kind of warmth to the one you may feel remembering sketches from childhood comedy programmes such as Breakfast with Morecambe & Wise or Fork Handles by The Two Ronnies, or even further back to the Laurel & Hardy episodes, which my late father used to love. Talking while walking with an old friend is a great way to reminisce, laugh and get some fresh air. It’s easy to arrange and it’s free.
Spitting out your cup of tea
Social media, for all its well-documented evils, has great potential for what I call ‘spitting out your cup of tea’ moments. There you are, scrolling aimlessly through your phone during a quiet 10 minutes, and suddenly something catches your eye which makes you laugh out loud. No one else is there to appreciate it but you, but it doesn’t matter. For a few sweet seconds, you really will chuckle. What is so funny will depend on your sense of humour but, for me, the best moments are split between deadpan, understated humour and the utterly ridiculous. On Twitter, Monica Lewinsky is queen of the wry, self-deprecating tweet, and Rory Stewart’s contribution to April Fool’s Day this year was a treat. Sometimes the general public is a glorious thing, and the typically British response of Boaty McBoatface to the NERC’s internet poll to name its new polar research ship received international acclaim back in 2016. The YouTube clip where Father Ted tries patiently to explain the size of cows to Father Dougal can be watched repeatedly without losing any of its comedic power. If someone on social media entertains you, follow them. When on your own at a loose end, it can be a great source of entertainment in small, targeted doses as long as you take care not to fall down the rabbit hole. It’s a solo pleasure but also huge fun to share.
Laughing till you cry
Perhaps the funniest moments of all are those which can’t be planned or manufactured. It will start off with something innocuous happening between two or more people who know each other well. The source of the humour may be completely oblivious or even absent, but it will trigger something and, before you know it, the giggling starts. It may take no more than a raised eyebrow, a twitching mouth or a single word between you, but the spontaneous laughter will start to spread. It will usually be in a completely inappropriate public place such as a church, an important meeting or school assembly under the baleful eye of a ‘proper’ grown-up. Before long, shoulders are shaking and tears are rolling as you try to stifle the laughter, but you can’t. This kind of laughter is golden and it’s infectious, as This Morning’s Holly and Phil will attest. Even if you don’t know what it’s about, someone else’s private joke can still be hysterical, and all the better if it takes place in public such as that between @LaurenLayfield and @HackerTDog on CBBC. Some people just have infectious laughs which start you off for no reason at all. You know who they are! These elusive moments are precious, will last for longer than they should and can erupt spontaneously at any time in the future. Enjoy them when you can!