I was just reading my son a bedtime story, and tonight it was the turn of Mr Funny. The Mr Men books seem very quaint and old fashioned these days (and quite hard work to read!), but I was struck by how Mr Funny stopped the sick animals in the zoo feeling sorry for themselves by making them laugh. It’s obvious, but it’s hard to feel depressed while you’re laughing – in the moment, at least.
Laughter therapy has become increasingly legitimised (or at least there is a large number of companies that provide such services) and the Observer featured an article on the subject a few years ago. I have to say I find the idea of getting together in order to laugh a bit forced and uninviting, but the principle is sound. I remember about 10 years ago, the Comedy Store had a series of posters on the Tube which outlined some health benefits of laughing. These included boosting the immune system, supressing the pain response, and burning calories (although you’d have to have a laugh somewhere in the Brian Blessed stakes to use it as a weight loss plan).
I don’t think it would hurt, though, to list things that make me smile or laugh, and make a conscious effort to do/watch/listen to them regularly. The last time I laughed like a drain I was pregnant, lying in the bath, listening to Radio 4′s Bleak Expectations. I was laughing so hard the baby started doing somersaults.
Of course, when you’re in the depths of a funk, even the idea of laughter is anathema, but if you’re just feeling a bit flat or stuck it can probably only help. I’m going to try and see if formalising it (“I am going to sit down and laugh and it will make me feel better”) has the same effect, or if an essential ingredient is spontaneity and surprise.