Laugh and the world laughs with you

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.’     – Audrey Hepburn

It really is one of the best medicines. Laughing not only releases lots of feel-good emotions (is it seratonin or endorphins? never can remember) but it gives you a pretty good work-out. You know that feeling – when you’re laughing so much it hurts, when you get to the point of hysteria when you’re reduced to whimpering because you haven’t got the strength to laugh any more? Feels fabulous. Better than sex. Well, better than the sex I’ve had recently.

If you haven’t laughed like that for a while, go to a laughter workshop. You’re all lying on the floor, not looking at each other, and trying not to laugh. When someone tells you not to laugh, you’re reduced to the status of naughty child, and the naughtiness bubbles up in you. A snort escapes you, then a giggle, and you try to stop, but the giggles are turning into a torrent, and you surrender to it. You’re shaking, ribs working like bellows sucking in air to power the laughs, your whole body jerking and juddering. You’re lost in it, helpless in the grip of growing hysteria. When the laughter dies down, everyone gasping for breath and  moaning, there’s some fool who gets the giggles again and you’re off, worse than ever, roaring and shrieking, heels drumming on the carpet, mouth gaping to release the gusts of laughter until you’re too weak to laugh any more, ribs heaving, muscles aching, limbs limp, tears leaking down your face, listening to your fellow gigglers in the same state of exhausted release, feel-good factors washing through the room and flooding you with endorphins so you can think of nothing at all. All you can do is feel. Feel your body buzzing, feel the utter satisfaction of intense exercise and uncontrollable joy.

If a laughter workshop isn’t your bag, get infected by someone else’s hysteria. Google clips Brian Johnson getting the giggles at a test match as Peter Willey failed to get his leg over the wicket; Robin Ray collapsing helplessly as he reads the story of the opera Carmen, Basil Brush losing it with Uncle Derek, or Kenny Everett doing almost anything. Basil Fawlty with concussion. If I find the clips, I’ll add the links here, but tell me your favourites. Please – I could do with a laugh. So could you. Grab the joy. Audrey Hepburn recommends it.



Prescription for Happiness

Prescription for Happiness.

Another lovely post from a happy young thing – Aimee, a student in Manchester. Great advice, although not always easy to follow. Listen to the birdsong and think  about the possibilities that come with Spring.

Which of Aimee’s recipe ingredients do you use most often?

Which ingredients do you struggle with?

A Dastardly day

If you remember Dick Dastardly’s dog Muttley, you’ll remember Muttley’s response to anything that failed to please him.

Like today. Bad from the off.


But Priyanka’s unashamedly joyful post (see below) put a smile on my face before the close of day, and reminded me that

Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.’

Hope on a rope

Is hope a noose that keeps you motionless, or the lifeline that helps you climb out of your abyss?

Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair, which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. It is the “feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best” or the act of “look[ing] forward to with desire and reasonable confidence” or “feel[ing] that something desired may happen”.     Wikipedia

Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, psychology professor at the University of North Carolina, argues that hope “…comes into play when our circumstances are dire”; she states that hope opens us up and removes the blinders of fear and despair and allows us to see the big picture, allowing us to become creative and have belief in a better future.

But is she right? There are different ways to use the emotion. Positive, proactive hope can fuel action, and give energy to change. Stagnant hope is only another face of despair, not its opposite, and the most paralysing of emotions, barring us from acceptance, blocking us from making any effort to help ourselves.

He that lives on hope will die fasting.  Benjamin Franklin

There’s the old joke about a man praying to God for a lottery win. God responding: ‘Meet me halfway. Buy a ticket.’ Hoping and hoping for something to happen is an utter waste unless you do something to help the process along. Putting faith in an outside agency, earthly or heavenly, to alter your circumstances by some miraculous process is a complete misunderstanding of what hope offers.

If you’re unhappy with your life, feeling lonely, empty, depressed, invisible – the dark and defeating feelings we all know – then by all means grab on to hope, but you have to start climbing yourself. If you wait for the rope to haul you up all by itself, you’ll be waiting forever. Use it to help you take the first step, and the one after that, and on till you get out of the pit, and you’ll get out faster and feel the stronger for it.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.   Anne Lamott

Zen and the pursuit of happiness

Officialwanting and striving to be happy can make you feel worse. Experiments by scientists in four universities have shown that the pursuit of happiness makes one feel lonely. They’ve proved it, so it must be true.

Well, clearly: the very fact of wanting happiness suggests you aren’t yet happy, and also suggests that you’re comparing yourself to other people you believe are happy. If you strive to be happy, and don’t succeed in feeling happy, then the apparent failure to acquire happiness will make you feel bad.

Answer? Don’t try. Just be. Happiness is more a state of mind – an attitude to life – than a fact. It’s a feeling, an emotion, that tells you that what you are, what you’ve got, where you’re at, is enough. It’s good. It’s great, in fact. Who wouldn’t want to be happy? But who says you can’t be happy now?

What is it that declares you can be happy? A certain amount of money? What – a thousand dollars? a million quid? A billion euros? How much is enough? Or is it about things – the latest iThing, diamonds, a Porsche, a luxury house, an island in the South Seas? Maybe it’s people – the trophy girlfriend, the happy family, the perfect spouse, the brilliant children, the celebrity friends? Is it fame? Is it success? What is success? What are the prices of all these things? And do they amount to happiness?

Let’s ask Elvis. Or Whitney. Or Amy. Or Jacko. Did they have money, fame, possessions? Yes. Were they surrounded by adoring people? Yes. Were they happy?

All I’m suggesting is that you can choose to be happy, any time, anywhere. You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have stuff. You don’t have to give up your stuff. You don’t have to be clever, qualified, or beautiful. It doesn’t depend on lifestyle, background, money, shape, colour or size.

It’s your choice. It’s not always easy, and some days it seems impossible. But unless the shit that’s happening to you today is going to stop the sun coming up tomorrow, then things can change and you can be happy again. The choice to be content, to be joyful, is backed up by understanding what makes you happy, what makes you suffer, and bit by bit choosing the former and getting shot of the latter. That’s a lifetime’s work – at least.

For now, choose to feel happy inside your own self, whatever’s going on around you.

Tell me:

What is happiness, anyway? How would you define it? What makes you happy? If you don’t think of yourself as a happy person, what would change that? What sort of life is it that you’d count as a happy life? There’s no right or wrong answer – I’m really interested in your take on this. 

Herman Hesse on joy

What I was trying to say in an earlier post about the importance of grabbing fleeting joys is explained more elegantly by Herman Hesse:

If a man ceases to take things for granted, he seeks eagerly and hopefully during the course of the day for moments of real life, the radiance of which makes him rejoice and obliterates the awareness of time and all thoughts on the meaning and purpose of everything… It is what the mystics call union with God.”