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Exploring the Power of Humour and Laughter for Healthy Living

Our penultimate Focus Group meeting, was a timely and appropriate one given the Covid-19-circumstances of 2020.

In other words, we were all in a bit of need for some humour to round the year off, and Julie rallied us to our seats with a superb rendition of Alley Cat on the grand piano.

Tisiola welcomed all, with a special welcome to the two new ladies – Trish and Brooke - who joined us for the evening.

The subject matter was presented by Ricci, one of our new Team Members, who loves a good belly laugh.

She opened her discussion with a brief personal history, illustrating the role humour has played in her life.

In her final year at high school, a misguided belief that seriousness denoted intelligence, saw the playful, fun-loving child she had always been, do a one-eighty turn from carefree lass into a full-blown sombre young lady. This masquerade continued into her early thirties, after immigrating to Australia from New Zealand in the late nineteen seventies.

Her mask fell, after meeting someone who was to partner her for twenty years and loved nothing more, than to make her laugh. A brilliant mimic, Ricci’s partner revealed her latent self - to herself.

Her new and extended family are all very good mimics and together they have laughed and cried their way through traumas and triumphs for over forty years. She said they have taught her many things, but she considers the two most important things she has learned from them, are the importance of family, and the joy of humour.

Quoting G.B. Shaw, she said it was a huge learning curve to know that, “Life does not become serious when someone dies, any more than a serious thing becomes funny, when someone laughs”.

Although there are only four basic types of humour – Affiliative, Aggressive, Self-enhancing and Self-defeating we all agreed that humour is a very complex thing, given that people have such varied senses of humour.

One of the brilliant pieces of recent humour mentioned was Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up performance called Nanette. I have seen this, but a good while ago, and it was ground-breaking. Also, from memory, I think it actually used all four forms of comedy in it.

As well as discussing the complexities of humour, Ricci did a number of humorous skits to both entertain, and illustrate how she uses humour in her own life, to keep life in perspective. And let’s face it, life is all about perspective. And in the case of humour, the alchemy of endorphins turns our walls into windows, revealing a fresh and unexpected point of view.

In fact, comedians actually use a verbal form of magic, by way of misdirecting us and building tension in one direction, only to swing us suddenly in another (the punch-line), which causes a mental delight, quickly followed by the physical response of the endorphins rushing our systems. And it is the endorphins that bring down our walls. The opposite of the fight or flight response we get with adrenaline flooding our bodies and pushing the walls up.

As well as using humour and laughter to connect to people, by way of conveying to them in a non-explicit, non-direct-verbal manner, that we agree with them, we like them, we get them, we understand and appreciate them, humour is a wonderful way of slipping serious messages into the conversation.

We all know how successful advertising companies have been stealthily using this medium for years, and it has now been proven, that by marrying humour with news, people absorb the facts more readily and also have a far greater retention of it.

Remember the person at school, in the office, the choir, the club, who was so funny? Everyone always gravitated to them. Why? Because they make us feel good. They make us feel included and valued. The funny person exudes confidence, and calmness, because both of those qualities are the necessary tools for their trade. And we want to be in their orbit. Because we want to be like them. Even if we don’t want to be the funny person themselves, we would love to share their easy-going, confident manner.

Loretta La Roche, an American of Italian origin, has spent over thirty years helping people to de-stress their lives. She tells people to stop “catastrophizing and awfulizing”, about everything. “Become the witness to your own behaviour”, she says. Ricci affirmed that this is what happened to her, when she met the person who could mimic her behaviour back to her - she became a witness to herself. Once you can do this, you will see how funny, many of your thoughts and behaviours are. And then, you will learn to laugh at yourself, and that is so liberating! It also breeds connection, because it breeds humility.

It is said, that humour is drama plus time. And I think we can all relate to this, with the dramatic stories we enjoy retelling after a period of time, which have somehow morphed into being funny. They were often deadly serious when they happened! But time has placed distance between the event and our present-day selves. We can view it from a distant, less personal perspective.

It was posited that this is what comics are so good at. Reducing the time between the drama and the telling. They also have an incredibly good eye for observation. They are able to see the funny side of people and events (which most of us don’t pick up on), and then reveal them back to us.

Laughter and fun are also great historical references for us. Trish illustrated this later, when she told us of a very sad time when her family were travelling to be with a dying sibling, and how on the way, their heavy journey was broken by uncontrollable, infectious laughter which tipped into tears and back into rollicking laughter again. The weight of their sorrow was lightened because our energy shifts and changes when we laugh. And the other beautiful thing about Trish’s tale, is this; that particularly sad memory, will forever be laced with humour, embroidering its way into their shared story.

After Ricci’s talk, there were a number of very funny true stories regaled by our group, and Tisiola quoted Drake, the rapper; “I was born to make mistakes, not to fake perfection.” Tisiola said she can smell ‘fake laughter’, when people are using it, just to curry favour.

This then led into a brief discussion about a different use of fake laughter, employed by Brooke, to stimulate serotonin, to lift her mood. And this has been proven to be very successful, because the body does not recognise the proxy, and like smiling, it clears the energy.

Well, it was yet another wonderful night, and much as I never cease to be amazed at the intellectual acuity of Albert Einstein “The difference between genius and stupidity, is that genius has its limits”; I unapologetically love, the largesse of humour and mirth, our limitless stupidity creates for us.

Toodle pip for now,

Bella H.

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