by Alice Thomson

Life is hard. For everyone. We’re all trying to find some meaning to our lives, trying to figure out where we belong and what our purpose is. Amongst that, we see what is going on the world, either connected to us or globally. Our environment can be tough to digest.

My last article was about the cuts the government is in the process of implementing to benefits for disabled people. I spent a lot of time researching the article and it really brought me down. I already knew it was a problem and needed to be spoken about, bknowledge,ut to learn the extent of the issue and read personal experiences, made me feel hopeless. The news can easily do that. Making it difficult, not only to take control and make positive changes to our environment, but to make those changes for ourselves. It’s a trick that’s as old as the book. Since the time people were able to establish a hierarchy, those on top kept everyone else in the dark to keep them in their place. Knowledge is power. Muddy the water of knowledge, and we disengage and disenfranchise the masses.

One of the best forms of self-care I have found is to laugh. I know it sounds obvious, but laughter can make you happy.

All very depressing, I know. To empower ourselves, we must be kind to ourselves. We need to take care of ourselves before we can look out for others or push forward in our own struggle. One of the best forms of self-care I have found is to laugh. I know it sounds obvious, but laughter can make you happy. We probably all know that laughing can make us feel good, it releases endorphins which are chemicals that the body releases making you feel happier and relaxed. For people like myself, suffering with chronic pain, endorphins are particularly important as they can help reduce the experience of pain.

What else can laughter do for us?

  1. Physiological benefits: laughter is a therapeutic ally in healing and a valuable form of preventive and complementary medicine. It provides important natural defences against illness.
  2. Mental benefits: laughter diffuses bad stress, enhances problem-solving skills, and creates a new perspective.
  3. Emotional benefits: laughter elevates moods, counteracts depression symptoms.
  4. Social benefits: laughter fosters better communication, and improves cooperation and empathy between people. It is a significant lubricant of human communication and relationships.
  5. Spiritual wellbeing: choosing to laugh and be positive teaches us to choose to live and be at peace with others, with ourselves and with our environment in our current situation. It helps us build resilience to stress and find meaning in life. The essence of what Laughter Wellness teaches is summarized in the following question: “What can I do now with a positive attitude?”

Laughter really is the best medicine. Although, I’d like to point out, laughter isn’t a tool to be used instead of required medications, but with them. If I had to rely on laughter for my only source of pain relief I wouldn’t find much funny. It’s also important to mention that although laughter helps healing and reducing pain, people experiencing problems with their health, or who are just going through a rough patch, often find it difficult to laugh. And yet, it’s when we are in these situations, when our health is declining, or we feel hopeless, that laughter is most effective. Even if you don’t feel like laughing, forcing a smile can have a beneficial impact and help put you in the mood to genuinely laugh. Some of the best places to find funny are the internet, radio (my favourite is the comedy club on radio BBC4 Extra) or television. I find the best way to digest some of the news is through political satire (not to be confused with parody or spoof news). That way you get to have a good giggle at the same time as discovering what’s going on with the world. One of the great things about political satire is that it always questions the news, promotes critical thinking and can often be more informative than traditional news sources.

(video contains strong language)

When we find humour to lift our mood, we do have to be careful. There are many ableist, racist, and fascist views that are using the platform of comedy to spread their ideas. It’s an insidious way of hiding hate speech within a laugh; explained away with “it’s just a joke”. Although there are some out there with the sole intention of spreading their agenda of intolerance, some do it accidentally, by conforming to culturally accepted assumptions, that when we dissect them, are prejudices. I think the rule of thumb is to find comedy that is respectful. After all, it is possible to express your opinion without being a complete arsehole.

In laughing, we can put ourselves into a positive mood, giving us a can-do attitude that can help us find solutions to our challenges. In terms of our struggles, I feel like we’re given two choices: give up and let those in power get on with their own agendas, or fight against the injustices we see. But, how do we fight when they have all the cards? Where do we start? How do we keep going? What can we do? Sometimes, when you have your own daily battles, fighting the larger problems seems impossible. It’s overwhelming. That’s certainly how I feel.

There are many ableist, racist, and fascist views that are using the platform of comedy to spread their ideas. It’s an insidious way of hiding hate speech within a laugh

By taking care of ourselves, and having a laugh, we can work towards our inner strength, helping us overcome these crushing feelings of hopelessness. Fighting your own battle can often lead into the bigger picture. If you stand up for yourself, others will see that and hopefully be inspired to do the same. You might feel like a single drop in a vast ocean.  What is an ocean, but a collection of single drops? Those small ripples will turn into waves.

Featured image A-maze-ing Laughter by Yue Minjun CC0


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