When was the last time you laughed so hard you could barely breathe?
If you’re having to scan your mind for an answer, you are not alone.
Being a responsible adult can make it hard to find time for light-hearted fun and play. Hitting the ‘pause’ button on the business of being a grown-up is not something our fast-paced, productivity-focused society encourages.
This means it's even more important that you purposely seek out and incorporate humour and delight in your life.
Why? Because the prescription to happiness is a regular dose of laughter.
The sheer act of laughing means all other emotions are momentarily overridden; you can’t worry about your finances and laugh at the same time… your brain, facial muscles and vocal apparatus are all busily engaged in expressing hilarity and glee.
I, personally, have found fun, play and laughter to be such powerful components in improving people’s lives (and, of course, my own) that I devote entire sections to them in my courses and client work. In fact, what prompted this article is this month's theme in my membership site: Letting the Kid in You Come Out & Play.
Think about it, if play wasn't absolutely necessary, natural selection would've eliminated it not only from our human lives but from the entire animal kingdom as well. Science is starting to uncover the survival value of engaging in play, not only in childhood, but adulthood as well.
Engaging in play creates new neural connections, improves brain function, stimulates creativity and inspires new ways of seeing the world.
It's at the root of discovery and leads to originality, invention and innovation. In fact, toys have been the source of many inventions.
Just look at the Wright brothers who credit their inspiration for creating the airplane to a childhood toy - a rubber-band helicopter, or the Stanford bioengineers who invented an inexpensive, human-powered blood centrifuge after being inspired by a whirligig toy.
Playing and fun are not just for kids. Laughter, leisure and enjoyment have the power to renew you; to refresh and restore your mental and physical energy.
They create an opening, some space for YOU in your life, and they are some of the fastest and easiest ways to defuse tension and stress.
Even mother nature makes time for merriment – just watch otters, meerkats, ravens, dolphins or your own pets, they regularly engage in play, irrespective of age.
Here are some fascinating facts about the ‘science of laughter’:
- laughter is an instinctive behaviour programmed by your genes, not a learned reaction (I find this so fascinating)
- laughter is a universal vocalization; every human being, irrespective of culture or era, is born with the instinct to laugh
- laughter is not easily controlled consciously (at least the truly genuine, spontaneous kind) as can be evidenced by trying to laugh on command
- certain regions of your brain have to be inhibited for spontaneous laughter to be possible; these are areas that are involved in decision-making and controlling behaviour
- humans are not the only mammals that laugh; primates and apes laugh too
Life is stressful enough as it is.
Include humour in your life and give yourself permission to play.
Fun leads to laughter.
And laughter leads to feeling lighter.
Purposeless fun has a purpose after all: your own HAPPINESS.
P.S. Feel you could use more joy and laughter in your life? Join us in The Kaliopi Nikitas Community this month where I'll help you build in play and other life-enhancing habits while keeping you accountable to increasing your own happiness.
Want a taste of what it's like if you join? Here's a behind-the-scenes look at some of April's content and how we'll be fitting play into our lives.