Tena koutou katoa. Nga mihi nui atawhai.
‘Humour is an unappreciated, underused superpower. Laughter triggers the ‘happy Hormones’, and suppresses cortisol, the stress hormone’. And, in these times, when the daily updates from the Prime Minister is giving stress inducing news, when there is so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, maybe it’s time to reach for this superpower.
Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas have spent five years studying the power of humour: watching hours of standup; interviewing comedians; training in the world’s best comedy institutions and teaching it at Stanford University. They’ve now written a book on their findings, entitled Humour, Seriously. Link to news article
“Some people believe this is too serious a time to laugh,” says Bagdonas, speaking via Zoom from her home in California. “But this is when we need humour more than ever. With this global pandemic, the shift to remote working, loneliness and depression rising precipitously, many of us have never felt so disconnected. When we laugh with someone – whether through a screen or 2m apart – we get this cocktail of hormones that strengthens our emotional bonds in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Studies show it makes us more resilient, creative and resourceful.”
Humour, Seriously presents a huge body of research to illustrate why and how humour works. It increases blood flow, and is a muscle relaxant. One 15-year Norwegian study of more than 50,000 people found that those with a strong sense of humour lived longer than those who scored lower.
Bagdonas describes an improv/life skills class she gave in her local county prison. “One of my students was talking about how much control had been stripped away from him,” she says. “He’d lost control of his space, his time, who he could see, but he said there was this baseline level of control – the control of his mental space – that no one could take away. It’s the choice of how we spend our time in our head. What I learned from that was that finding ways to laugh through hardship, reminds us that we’re in control of our heart and mind, whatever darkness lies behind the door. And that’s a triumph.”
So, while I am not suggesting that we make light of our current situation, we can always try to see the brighter, lighter side of life. I am enjoying being able to write this article in my PJs; enjoying the savings on cosmetics and petrol as I don’t have to go into my place of work each day. And I am enjoying watching the humorous uploads that the students are creating to keep us all amused and connected. Humour really is a superpower!