Think Twice Before Keeping A Straight Face

Exams may be over, but for most of us, the dawn of the new term fails to bring a smile to our face, and is far cry from a laughing matter. Results are waited on like detonators, emails from every department (ones you don’t even belong to?) usurp every mobile device, and the word “internship” fills you with about as much excitement as “vaccination”. It’s official that next year you’ll be living in the cupboard under the stairs with a landlord like Vernon Dursley, and no matter how hard I try to make this article entertaining, I’d be lucky to get a snigger out of you right now…


Photo credit: Goodreads

The January Blues are real. I get it. I have it too. In fact, whilst those around me who have taken up 7.30am spinning classes (spinning /= Insanity. Different class / same thing?) are being complimented for their ‘taut toosh’, the only remark directed my way this term has been — “That face!” — followed by a look of absurd horror on their behalf. (Apparently I have a scowl more vehement than an angry baby. (Youtube it.))


Photo credit: Goodreads

In my preferred mode of voluntary social reclusion, I have spent many an hour tucked away at my desk finishing off the leftover Christmas truffles (anyone else receive that giant Lindor bauble?) and indulging in the ultimate ironic remedy for my bad mood: binge-reading about happiness, I stumbled across this:

“Humor is the antidote to overthinking. It’s a way of saying that life is paradoxical. Humor contains contradictions; it does not resolve them but revels in them. It says that the right way to exist among the contradictions, paradoxes, and absurdities of life is to cope with them through laughter.” – Bob Mankoff, How about Never: Is Never Good For You?

And bah-humbug it’s true. Without a doubt, there is something shamefully seductive about letting life’s beatings leave you with bruises to boast of the next day: to let the vexed storms of January speak through you with a heavy blow and biting tongue. And though that Draculaen ego may be an exciting contrast to your usual sunny self, who’s the one laughing now? Not you…

The moment you sacrifice your sense of humor, your soul starts to drain away also. Humor is that elixir saving us from being drowned by life’s contradictions, paradoxes and absurdities. When reason fails, humor is the only redeeming force. It’s not just an “ice breaker” but a very real radiator of human warmth and connection – notice how attractive funny people are? In fact, having a sense of humor is one of the highest ranked personality traits in polls on what people look for in a relationship, and in an employee. Unlike rationality, intuition, knowledge, wisdom and all those other aspirational qualities, humor doesn’t claim to offer you unique insight into the world – quite the opposite, it attempts to bind you to other people through one universally enjoyed experience: laughter. In that moment where you break down all pretentiousness and righteousness and just see the funny side of life, not only do you realize you are not alone in a wildly paradoxical world, but that you can turn to the person next to you and just laugh about it. As Mankoff says, humor “does not resolve [contradictions] but revels in them” – in that respect, humor unlocks a sense of satisfaction and contentedness that we never stop to appreciate in our endless quest for answers, explanations and solutions. Of course, an enquiring mind is a gift in itself, but when analysis turns into paralysis and overthinking has you dredged in a depression making you hang like a donkey without a tail, picture it, and laugh!


Photo credit: Goodreads

A real, unreserved chuckle is about the best thing you can do for your mind and body, right here, right now. Can you guess what two of the biggest health trends of 2015 are set to be? Laughter yoga, and laughter therapy. And no, I’m not having a laugh (right now) – the Royal Brompton Hospital is set to have its first laughter therapy cubicle by the end of the year. As for laughter yoga, what’s there not to laugh at?


Photo credit: Goodreads

Right now, I dare you to just burst out with laughter as if a can of nitrous oxide has just exploded in your stomach. Go on. Pretend you’re reading something really funny and there’s your excuse. Throw your head back and splutter with laughter. Laugh so hard your abdominals do a Mexican wave and you grab your belly, bending forwards almost falling off your chair with laughter. Go on, try it!

Of course you won’t. I know you feel the January Blues just really aren’t a laughing matter. But it’s certainly something to think twice about…

Emma Pudge

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