Post No.: 0135
Laughter is indeed a medicine that one is recommended to take regularly. (I like watching lots of comedy!) It overall decreases our blood pressure, enhances our immune function, reduces the focus on any chronic pain we may have, increases our pain threshold temporarily, and improves our health generally. It’s not just for children – adults need to allow themselves to laugh more and play more too!
During bereavement, most people enter states of anxiety and/or depression but then soon lift out of it, but others stay grief-stricken for longer – those who recover better are those who, when talking about their lost loved ones, are able to laugh when describing their relationship with them. So try to find a perspective that encourages laughter – remember the positive, happy and funny times.
Laughter makes any social connection stronger, whether with partners, friends, teachers, strangers or even adversaries, as long as the laughter is mutual. It can therefore diffuse potential conflicts. People tend to like strangers who laugh at their jokes. Most people find being able to provide a laugh and being able to laugh attractive. Laughter is also extremely contagious! Laughter can put things into a better perspective – as if everything is in some sense insignificant in the broader scheme of living experience (it kind of reveals a sense of delight in what can be considered absurd). It breaks the ice, and can thaw any existing ice after any argument or impasse – so laughter heals. Humour helps us to process conflicts in our environment through a release of dopamine, which mediates pleasure in the brain (amongst many other functions). Woof!
When being sized-up in a potential confrontation, being able to get others to laugh may indicate dominance since it’s usually the subordinate who laughs in order to appease and avoid a potential conflict. But people who laugh are socially intelligent and also attractive since they tend to have a positive temperament and can get along with others. This means that laughing is contextual and multifunctional, and believing that eliciting laughter is simply a sign of dominance is over-simplistic (after all, the court jester is there to make the king/queen laugh!)
There are arguably three main types of jokes – incongruity resolution or violating expectations in novel ways, nonsense fluffy humour, and taboo/offensive humour. They all involve dealing with surprise and resolving the ensuing cognitive dissonance that the setup of a joke builds. Humour that looks for the bright side of troubling situations is generally better for our health than dark, sardonic humour.
Playing is also important for social, emotional and life satisfaction, for learning, creativity, imagination and other cognitive benefits. Play is about learning, practising and problem solving (read Post No.: 0009 for why play is vital for children). It’s about experimenting to try to find the boundaries of concepts and ideas, of possibilities and limitations, of the edges between safe or acceptable behaviours and those that are not. Play is important for a child’s development, as well as for adult happiness and health.
Free, unstructured play seems purposeless and directionless, voluntary, intrinsically fun, free of time constraints/deadlines, is improvisational and is carried out with a diminished sense of self-consciousness. It teaches skills (e.g. role playing, such as imitating a doctor or vet, trying something out or practising something), it helps us to find and form our personal identity, to learn about the physical world (structures, mechanisms, motion), and probably most importantly for social creatures – to learn empathy, master the theory of mind and other social skills with other people (e.g. word play, language, exploring meanings and different perspectives).
Before ~6 years old, children aren’t really able to play with rules – or at least aren’t able to stick to them well! When trying to push children who are too young into too much academia or organised activities, there are opportunity costs i.e. it doesn’t come for free since doing one thing means not being able to spend that same time doing something else – children must give up something and that’s usually unstructured, imaginative, intrinsically-directed, self-initiated and independent free play; thus it risks stunting their growth in other areas of development. So, regarding organised activities before ~6 years of age – rather than direct your child to do what you want from them (or at least what you think society or the economy wants in a single-minded and inflexible fashion in order to get a ‘head start’ on other kids) – involve them in making these decisions and support their decisions if they’re appropriate. It’s also about balance (e.g. of sedentary activities and physically active play, playing with others and playing by oneself, screen time and time outside).
So we need to give children time and spaces to just play (not that children themselves need any convincing to just play! Children evolved to have strong instincts to just play whenever and wherever they can). Flow (feeling so fully immersed and absorbed in an activity that one loses a sense of time and place) is the optimal state to be in, thus both over-pushing or under-stimulating are not optimal states for the development of a child – usually, given a stimulating environment and enough space for physical activities, children will naturally find their optimal state of flow if they just play.
Playful teachers are more engaging, which enhances interest in the subject matter they teach. So heavy testing and early standardisation in schools are arguably not good (they may suit some children but not all). Businesses that allow play are amongst the most successful too – play helps creativity, teamwork, morale, loyalty, and induces a dedication to a higher quality of work. Workers obviously want to enjoy what they do, as well as feel a greater purpose in what they do, and be recognised and well rewarded (not just financially) for their contributions to the bigger picture.
Regular physical activities/exercise must not be forgotten too! The benefits of regular physical activities are not just physical but mental – there’s the release of endorphins (which can induce feelings of euphoria and act as a natural painkiller), the feeling of more self-confidence, more energy, alertness and capability, for instance. During intense enough exercise in particular, your mind also cannot wander for needing your full mental concentration, hence intense exercise (or an activity like yoga or tai-chi, for instance, that encourages being mentally in the present) is a form of mindfulness activity, of being in the present, and is a way to achieve flow when the level of challenge is neither insurmountable nor too easy. Exercise is also about the feelings one feels afterwards and for reaching one’s personal goals too (i.e. ‘no pain, no gain’ (although this phrase doesn’t apply to activities that are injurious so please don’t over-generalise it) or ‘pay now, get later’).
And surround yourself with nature too – being amongst nature, such as greenery and animals (although maybe not those that want to eat you(!)) improves our well-being. If you cannot be outside amongst nature, or at least see an abundance of nature outside your window or take frequent breaks to walk or sit amongst nature, then bring nature into your home and workplace (e.g. plants, pets). Pets, particularly furry pets (woof woof), can potentially reduce stress and behave as non-judgemental company. Dogs can possibly improve health further because they must be regularly walked too.
Woof! Have you any good jokes to tickle our souls?! If you do, please share them with us via the Twitter comment button below…
I was having dinner with my boss and his wife said, “How many potatoes would you like?” I said, “Ooh I’ll just have one please.” She said, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be polite.” “Alright then” I said, “I’ll just have one, you stupid ****!”
I got my mother a new fridge for her birthday. I can’t wait to see her face light up when she opens it!
What are those steroids that help people who cheat grow extra muscle?
No, just muscle. (Probably one for British readers only!)
I asked the gym instructor, “Can you teach me to do the splits?” She said, “How flexible are you?” I said, “I can’t make Wednesdays.”
A friend of mine always wanted to know what it’d feel like to be hit by a steam train. When it finally happened, he was chuffed to bits! (Probably another one for British readers only.)
A Buddhist goes up to a hot dog vendor and says, “Make me one with everything.” The vendor assembles a hot dog and hands it to the Buddhist, who pays with a $20 bill. The vendor puts the bill in the cash box then closes it. “Excuse me, but where’s my change?” asks the Buddhist. The vendor responds, “Change must come from within.”