Healing with Humor
PUBLISHED IN SINDHUJAA'S COLUMN IN THE TIMES OF INDIA.
A child laughs about 300 times a day. An average adult laughs only about 17 times a day (research from Palmer, Gary K. Brigham Young University). An adult under stress – sweeps even the 17 laughs under a carpet – and remains forever in the pursuit of unreachable happiness.
Where did we lose our belly laughs that left us roaring with mirth, tears of joy streaming down our faces? How long has it been since you laughed so hard that your cheeks hurt and you were heaving for breath? Have you been hiding under half-hearted smiles and fake photo-ready grins instead?
I remember that I was a kid who constantly giggled. I was often sent out of class in school for helpless giggling fits with my best friends. Life took me on a journey where I lost that person somewhere along the way. I suspect it was when I had to make the all-confusing transition from adolescence into adulthood, cemented by a metamorphosis from carefree college life to a carefully structured corporate life, where every statement and smile had a meaning.
I became a master at constructing the perfect ‘confident smile’, the perfect ‘sophisticated tinkle of laughter’, at perfect timing. After all, who would take a person seriously if she smiled too easily, laughed till she spat out the water she had unfortunately just swallowed, or went red in the face chuckling! I unwittingly learnt to stifle myself, and over a couple of years, things that had initially seemed funny – felt funny no more. I didn’t even have to scrunch up my face in concentration any more, in my attempt not to burst out laughing. I lost little pieces of laughter day after day. Life switched from ‘romantic comedy’ into ‘critically acclaimed distraught drama of hard-won success’.
I felt more like one of those complex literary protagonists – so many layers of personality all tangled up. But I missed my old self terribly – the one who didn’t need to think before laughing loudly, the one who could find the mirth in any complicated situation, the one who could give challenges a wink in the eye and fly into it armed with a joke and two witty friends! Slowly yet intentionally, I found my way back to her. I couldn’t disinherit the best gift life had to offer – laughter! No matter what life threw at me!
Let no one steal your laughter. Let no episode in life alienate you to humour. Let’s face it! Life is funny☺ If you look at it the right way! Each day gives us numerous opportunities to de-bloat our belly full of self-pity and frustrations – with a prick of laughter! The squirrel who startles the sage pigeon on the window sill, the husband doing the Masai dance as he brushes his teeth, the child feeding her homework to the dog while hoping no one’s looking, your colleague’s face as he has no idea how to respond to the lame joke you just told him, the newsman struggling to sound sensational on TV as he speaks about the weather! There’s no end to it! Invite the goofy into your life!
Humour is an important ally in pushing past rigidity of thinking. It’s this tightness which leads to depressed states, creative blocks and loss of vitality both in body and mind. Laughter is the soul’s weapon for self-preservation. It fosters acceptance of our foibles by leveraging our human-ness. This needn’t happen at the expense of others of course. But the aim is to lighten up, drop the burdens! A sense of play converts life into a joyful game.
Research reveals that humour can make us more attractive to others. It is also a business asset, counter-intuitively! It unites people, because laughter is a universal language. Humour can help us heal disagreements and tiffs. It dethrones the emperor in the brain – the ego – revealing that he ain’t wearing any clothes!
Above all, humour heals. Laughter can reduce the stress hormones in our body, lower blood pressure, increase immunity and endorphins that make you happy. It can significantly aid your mental health. It can repair damaged neurons, and open up fresh perspectives on problems. No more will you feel ‘trapped’. Your energy opens up.
Here are some ways to induce more laughter into your life:
1) Smile More – Smiles and laughter live in the same neighbourhood. Find joy in the simple things of life. Soon, heartfelt laughter will follow.
2) Comedy Festival – Treat yourself to a comedy binge! Line up funny movies and books, spend some time with them each day. You can even attend a few stand-up comedy shows or comic plays etc. Amuse yourself!
3) Tell Stories – Recall some of your embarrassing moments. Cut down on your self-consciousness, throw in some dramatization and relate your stories to people! As you do this, you begin to see the humorous aspects of life for yourself!
4) Turn life on it’s head and laugh at little annoyances – Did you step in dog poop, get splashed with mud or inadvertently take a tumble into the pool? Instead of responding with stress, visualize the scene unfolding as if to another person, and have a good laugh!
5) Sort through your feel-good photographs and come up with funny one-line captions for them! Next time you pull these out, you’re going to be grinning your head off!
6) At dinner each night, get your family or friends to share one funny thing that happened to them that day!
7) When someone offends you, try responding with humour- Life’s too short to turn every affront into a battle! I have personally even pulled silly faces and gotten away with it, breaking the ice! Of course wit and spontaneity come with really loosening up, breaking some norms and regularly quipping with others! Mixing satire and sincerity keeps people in your good books!
Life can often be a comedy of errors, sprinkled with some masterful wins and evolving bouts of enlightenment. Humour is the glue that binds together our absurd lives! It is a key ingredient of self-actualization and personal fulfilment.
Like someone wise once said, “It is time to take humour seriously and seriousness humorously!”
Can the Funny Me and You please stand up and take a bow?!