Apparently a child laughs on average 300 times a day, compared with an adult’s 5. As we’ve grown up, we’ve built up a set of barriers, mostly embarrassment, self-consciousness, and ideas of what is and isn’t cool. But most of us would love to feel as free as a child, able to run and jump and laugh at tiny, silly things. It shouldn’t have to change as you get older, but we think we need to be more acceptable, more sensible, or not so silly. But while it’s good to know when you need to behave more sensibly, at the same time you need laughter and joy in your life.
Laughing releases nervous tension, and helps us to process difficult emotions. If a child is going through a difficult time at school, getting them to pretend to be the teacher and act out an exaggerated version of their day can start the giggles and help them to get out of feelings of powerlessness. There’s nothing to suggest this shouldn’t work with us too. When we’re too serious and grown up it can keep us in familiar but unhelpful boxes, while playing or laughing could help us to see things from a totally different perspective.
If you are a parent, you have an extra excuse. I know you have way too much to do, but whenever you can, even just for a few minutes a day, play with your kids. Watch them enjoying moments, and don’t miss them by being distracted. It can be hard to make time to do what seems like nothing important, but to experience life with no filters can be so much fun. Let them show you what is interesting and funny again. A child hasn’t had time to take things for granted yet, and they’re meeting some things for the first time. It can help you rediscover the fascinating things that the world has to offer.
I know I’ve said this before, but try this – smile as widely as you can and then think about your day. Try as hard as you can to think about how bad it is, what a terrible time you’re having. It’s a little bit harder when you are smiling. But smiling is supposed to be a result of being happy, not a cause, isn’t it? Well, it looks like a smile, even one that starts off false, can begin to lift your mood just a little. And look, I know some pain is too big to just smile away. This is more for when you’re letting little things bring you down, when you can’t see the good because you’re stressed or annoyed. Bigger feelings need to be felt, not ignored.
You can also try to play games with yourself when you’re trying to achieve a goal. Just making a game or challenge out of something can turn it from drudgery into a bit of fun. Yes, it’s a bit Mary Poppins, but there’s a reason why that’s so popular. Kids definitely respond to this, and once you get over how grown up you’re supposed to be, I’ll bet you will too.