If us Brits are known for anything, it is our unique sense of humour. Sure, we may also be known for ‘having a stiff upper lip’, our unending politeness, our love of a good queue and our endearment for talking about the weather. However, it’s our grasp of sarcasm, wit, black humour and teasing that is spoken about far and wide.

But what about purer forms of humour? Do they still have a place in modern Britain? Can the innocent silliness often employed by children help us to weather harder times and see the bright side of life?

Embrace your inner child

Everyone knows the phrase ‘You’ve got to laugh…’. Normally deployed when something particularly annoying has happened, often when it isn’t the first time you’ve experienced the irritation and you could see it coming, could see that others could see it coming, could see that it could be changed, yet here you are, in the same maddening situation once again.

You’ve got to laugh… or you’ll cry, or scream, or stamp your feet like the petulant child you feel you could justify being in this moment.

Grumpy child with tight fists

But what else would a child do in such a circumstance? It’s even likely that, having been disappointed, they will start to ‘act out’ and be silly.

What if we stop considering being silly as ‘acting out’ and reframe it as ‘getting through it’? As making light of the situation or finding a way to make the most of it? What benefit would we all have if we were just a bit more silly, just a bit more of the time?

Brightening the darkest of days

There is no denying that 2020 has been a hard start to a new decade (to put it lightly!), yet laughing to ourselves or with loved ones or colleagues has brightened the days and kept us going. It is no different for other times of stress in our lives, from bereavements to ending relationships, job losses or times of sickness.

You may feel that cracking a joke or being silly may appear to be uncaring or just a little immature - we would argue that this is not the case. After all, our lives are complex and so are our emotions. When times are hard, it is ok to experience a range of emotions, from sad to angry to confused to determined - why shouldn’t happy or silly be included in the mix, even when things are tough, especially if it helps you to cope with stress, adversity or depression?

Dr Nick Kuiper, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Western Ontario, has been researching humour for over 30 years. He believes that it can function as a reframing mechanism, allowing psychological distance from a negative event to be created. In turn, this allows the stressful event to be seen in a less threatening manner and more of a positive ‘challenge’. In other words, humour is a tool that can be leaned on to lessen the detrimental effects of dark days, whilst also:

Woman holding a slice of watermelon up to look like her smile

Finding your groove

Currently, we’re in the midst of a pandemic - certainly dark days for many. With it has come increased vulnerability for all those living with underlying medical conditions. Job losses, recession, lack of physical contact, educational impacts and worries of keeping cupboards stocked… the list of stressful events linked to the pandemic are almost endless.

Yet, during this period we have seen adults dancing along to their children’s TikTok videos, postmen making their rounds in fancy dress and workouts exclusively using toilet roll for equipment. And let’s not forget the boss who accidentally presented a whole Zoom meeting as a potato, kickstarting a trend of silly Zoom filters and backgrounds - something that surely brightened our moods when we realised we were on virtual meeting number 34 of the week!

Box of eggs with googly eyes

What makes one person chuckle may not work for another and, like any coping mechanism, humour is a muscle that gets stronger and more defined with use so don’t be surprised if you find it hard to let your hair down at first. Just start playing around:

  • You may find that sticking googly eyes to the eggs, butternut squash and the dog’s water bowl tickles you and makes you smile every time you step back into the kitchen.
  • Play hide and seek - it’s up to you whether you tell the others in your house that the games is about to begin or not!
  • Dig out your old roller skates, skate board, bike or unicycle, then head to the highest hill you can find.
  • If you’re stuck in the office for long stressful hours, initiate a chair race (you may want to wait until the boss is in a meeting for this one!)

If you find yourself stuck for ideas, watch the kids in your life. They are sure to be coming up with playful and fun ideas every hour of the day. And, again, don’t panic...being silly gets easier with time and you’ll soon work out what plasters a smile on to your face.

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References to other websites herein are done so with sincerity and an open appreciation for their content.

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