Laugh, our final invitation
October is coming to an end and so is our mental health month blog series. For the last 9 weeks we have been exploring each invitation on our Grow Your Mind Checklist poster. Tina and I have used this last call to action constantly during our first year as a start up. LAUGH. There have been stuff ups and delirious tiredness that resulted in weepy non sensical giggles as well as an ongoing banter that has helped two humans navigate this Grow Your Mind experience fairly well. After all who can’t relate to turning to humour to overcome some of the most stressful or butt clinchingly awkward moments in life? We certainly can.
Like that time when we were just about to launch Grow Your Mind. I was riding my bike carrying brand new gratitude journals for the first run of our new beautiful kits. I was moments from my destination only to find my bag had let me down, it split open and sent over 100 journals flying across the road. I watched as cars began tearing them apart. There was a choice in that moment, to have an adult tantrum or to get the giggles. I don’t always choose the latter but suffice to say it helped put a little perspective on it all. They were just gratitude journals after all — time to put the theory into practice. Thank goodness I am not that gratitude journal currently being run over.
Laughter does help us, when we laugh we release endorphins, those feel good chemicals in the body. Which is why, when we are stressed and we find ourselves having a laugh we do get a bit of short-term relief from the tension and worry. As always, we are not shedding light on some new phenomena with deep complexities and subtle variances. People have been talking about the benefits of laughter for a loooonnnng time. Mark Twain as always came up with the goods when he stated: “The human race has only one really effective weapon, and this is laughter.” Twain was fairly spot on, our ability to see the light side of stress, mistakes, set backs, arguments etc can be one of our greatest sources of resilience that we can call on in those tricky times.
Quick disclaimer: humour needs to involve both people finding it funny to really be helpful and not harmful. We all need to acknowledge our feelings and not intensify the pressure of being ‘ok’ all the time by laughing things off. However, outside of this, genuinely laughing does offer some magic for our mental health. Perhaps one of the central reasons for this is: when we laugh we feel connected. Brene Brown puts the benefit of connection here beautifully:
“Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone.”
We devoted an entire article to the positive mental health aspects of connection, check it out here. The general message of it was this: when we feel connected we are more able to show compassion to ourselves and to others.
Sometimes as parents and/or teachers we forget to laugh. We get caught up in the ‘jobs’ and genuinely forget that this whole life business can be quite funny. My house door once slammed shut on me and my 2 and 4 year old at the time. My keys, wallet, phone and their lunch were on the other side. Expletives followed, with something articulate from me along the lines of “Oh for F*%K sake”. Later that day I picked up my daughter from her beautiful preschool, I was pulled aside by her softly spoken teacher. Clementine used some strong language today when asked to pack away, she said “Oh for F*%K sake”. Slightly mortified while also trying to maintain a poker face and appear shocked, I found myself giggling — and thankfully her teacher followed suit.
Once again I need to state that this is not always my default to stress or embarrassment. It’s just that as mentioned, as adults we sometimes forget to laugh. German psychologist and pioneer of humour therapy Dr Michael Titze points out that studies have found that children can laugh up to 300–400 times a day, but by the time they’re adults it reduces to less than 15 times a day, if at all.
Grow Your Mind advocates for talking about mental health with young children. This could be serious but it doesn’t have to be. Humour can be used in the way we deliver our messages. For example, everyone, from 3 to 93 can relate to having a bossy Guard Dog (amygdala) that gets it wrong sometimes, barks too loudly and makes bad decisions. Mindfulness itself can be really funny. Getting children to place their heads on other peoples bellies and mindfully listen and notice the sensations of laughing is anything but serious.
Finding it hard to see the funny side?
What questions are you asking your children at the end of the day? Try throwing in: when did you laugh most today?
Get a good joke book: nominate a night to share a joke. Or encourage children to come up with their own jokes.
Pause a moment when you feel your Guard Dog getting big: is there any light in this situation? If you were a fly on the wall is there anything humorous about this situation?
Play: be it a board game, a wrestle, a pretend game, just play. Chances are at some point you will find yourself laughing with your children.