Laughing into the Good Times
After the festive season, going back to work and school can be rather difficult. Meaningful Minds, Clinical Psychologist, Ethelwyn Rebelo looks at how we can start the new year on a lighter note.
The holiday season with all it’s usual lights, its songs and images of Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere, has come and gone. For a time, some of us may have managed to put aside our anxieties and have managed to enjoy meals and time with close family and friends. This may have been a time of peace and happiness.
It may, however, also have been agony. As Oscar Wilde once said: “We can’t choose our family, thank heaven we can choose our friends”. The Christmas ritual of meals where family members who might harbour grudges, resentments and dislike of each other have to sit side-by side and try to remember that they are supposed to love each other, can be torment.
I had to have some blood tests today. The phlebotomist at this Lancet is a friendly woman whom I always bring little gifts for. I do this because I like her, but also so that she remembers to use a tiny needle with me. One thing one really does not want to do is to get on the wrong side of someone who has to stick needles into one’s arm to draw blood. I asked her how her holiday season had been and she replied that she felt extremely grateful that, for once, no one in her family had become drunk and then decided to tell another family member what he or she really thought of him or her. I laughed with her. The image she painted was funny. But it was also sad because this is often how things turn out. It takes one outburst, drunken or otherwise, for all one’s hopes of cosiness and good cheer during the holiday season to turn into popped balloons.
*PHLEBOTOMY - Where people saying “are you in yet” and “I didn’t feel a thing” is a good thing*
In addition to having to endure family conflict, for some truly unfortunate people, the holiday season may have been a reminder of all that is significantly wrong with their lives: perhaps no money for essentials; a lack of social support; chronic illness; the loss or expected loss of loved ones….
However the holiday season may have been - most of us are now preparing to enter the usual work routines of our lives. Some of us may be feeling optimistic and others may be anxious with regard to anticipated difficulties. With this in mind, it is worth remembering that laughter is a wonderful way of dealing with those every-day stresses that can poison us in minute doses. In other words, those stresses that make us feel unwell but that are not heavy enough to kill us in one go. They build up gradually, making us susceptible to heart attacks, strokes and other chronic conditions.
For those of us who have not developed a sense of the comic as a defence mechanism, it may be difficult to turn to humour. It may be really hard to think about what might be funny about an uncomfortable situation.
If you are one of these people, then you might consider doing the following:
Try visualising people who upset you as cartoon characters. Exaggerate their irritating characteristics in your head and give them funny labels like “Supermouse”; “Captain Genius Underpants”; “Princess Porker”… you get my drift;
Imagine how a comedy show based on a stressful aspect of your life might be presented;
Watch as many funny movies or television shows as you can;
Explore on-line joke websites or joke books;
Spend time with friends who make you laugh; and
Try laughter yoga.
For laughter yoga, get a group of friends together and practice laughing. Force yourself to laugh at first and then keep laughing, at nothing. Just laugh. Although initially fake, the laughter ends up becoming spontaneous. You may then cue each other with stressful situations that are relevant to each of you, such as: “I have to pay bills”; “I have to work with people I hate”; “I have to drive through torrents of traffic every morning”; and so on. Follow up each description of a stressful situation with peals of laughter: laughter which is initially acted out but which soon becomes real. Hearing other people laugh can be very funny. It is particularly funny watching others work earnestly at laughing. Laughter, even if phoney in the beginning , is infectious.
Laughter is good for one’s health. It enhances one’s intake of oxygen, stimulates one’s blood circulation, one’s heart and one’s lungs. It causes endorphins, produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland, to be released. These make one less susceptible to pain and raise one’s mood. Laugher relaxes one’s muscles and improves one’s immune system.