“I am happy when in spite of the ills of the planet and of those close to me I still have the capacity to feel compassion for others. To live without compassion is a one way journey to a lonely place.”
~ Beryl Fletcher
Congratulations to Beryl Fletcher, whose response to the question: “What makes you happy”?” wins her a Happy Nation T-shirt. Unfortunately since she exceeded the word limit of 25 words, the T-shirt will have to be two sizes too big!
Recently I heard a man tell of the difference it made when he and his wife performed an act of kindness in their neighbourhood. For some months they had been hearing the woman across the road yelling at her kids. The yelling had got worse since her husband had gone to prison.
One evening the angry shouting was particularly bad. Concerned about the safety of the children, the man sat at his window thinking about whether to call Child Youth and Family. Then he made a decision. Instead of picking up the phone, he walked across the road to offer help to the woman. To his surprise, his wife had made the same decision and was crossing the road at the same time.
A tearful discussion followed and things calmed down. The woman had been feeling desperate and was grateful for some support. Since then, the family have been far more settled, the children’s behaviour has improved and they are regular visitors at the house across the road.
In the last newsletter I wrote about the health benefits of laughter; today I’ll talk about the social benefits.
After studying 1,200 people laughing spontaneously, Robert Provine concluded that the main purpose of laughter is to bind people together. It’s an instinctive language that we all speak. We laugh when others are laughing, we laugh at things other people say and we laugh at the things we say ourselves when we want to make other people laugh.
Laughter defuses tension and deflects anger. In an embarrassing situation, it can rescue your dignity. A laugh shows that you trust the people you’re with. There’s a snowball effect – the more laughter there is in a group, the more comfortable people feel with one another, leading to more laughter.
Laughter is made to be shared – we laugh 30 times more often in company. One experiment showed that even laughing gas, which can have people rolling about with laughter, loses most of its effect when taken alone. (I’m trying to picture this experiment: rows of isolated cubicles occupied by sad loners, unable to crack a smile as they talk to themselves in silly high pitched voices.)
Since laughter is catching, it seems a good idea to spend time with people, preferably happy ones. And if the people you’re with aren’t laughing much, you can start the snowball effect with a giggle of your own.