Today, Sunday 14 April, we celebrate the International Moment of Laughter, an opportunity for everyone to laugh loudly, freely and openly, without holding back. The day was initiated by American motivational speaker and ‘humorologist’ Izzy Gesell to encourage people to laugh more.
I’ve posted a couple of times before about the benefits and value of laughing and smiling, and generally having a positive attitude. After all, “laughter is the best medicine”, as the saying goes.
So let’s just say that today is yet another chance to cash in on some free medication – smile, laugh and be positive, and feel the benefits flowing back to you, reducing your stress, relaxing tired muscles, and strengthening your immune system.
Watch your favourite funny movie, share some jokes, or simply get silly. And if you really want to optimise the benefits, share the laughter with those around you! As the great Mark Twain once said, “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”
Feeling bored, and not quite ready for work after the long Easter weekend? Well fear not, for I have just the day for you – today, 3 April, is World Party Day!
This day, also known as “P-Day”, is described by Wikipedia as a “synchronised global mass celebration of a better world and the active creation of a desirable reality”. It was started in 1996, and the idea apparently first appeared in a novel by the American writer Vanna Bonta, called “Flight, a Quantum Fiction Novel”. In the book, there was a countdown to a synchronised worldwide celebration aimed at elevated social awareness, that was to take place on 3 April. This inspired readers to organise a real event in 1996. Thanks to the explosion of mass interpersonal communication through social media etc, this has gained in popularity, with millions of people now taking part in organising party events around the world. Apparently one of the bigger of these internationally coordinated events is a so-called “hum-in” to be held at 15h00 Eastern Standard Time.
World Party Day has no religious or political alliances, celebrating the shared universal human right to having fun and living in peace. While the idea of creating a desired reality through shared awareness and synchronised celebration sounds a little airy-flairy and new-agey to me, I cannot fault the underlying desire for world peace and happiness, so I am all for it.
Enjoy the World Party, and may we all live to see better days, particularly those sadly still living in regions ravaged by violence and war.
In 2012, the United Nations (UN) declared March 20 to be observed as the International Day of Happiness. This means that today we are lucky enough to be witness to the First United Nations International Day of Happiness.
The day aims “to promote happiness as a universal goal and aspiration in the lives of human beings around the world.” It recognises happiness as a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to adopt public policies that promote the wellbeing of all its peoples. Focussing on the happiness of all citizens is really a simple way of promoting inclusive, equitable and balanced communities, where no groups are disadvantaged at the expense of others, and where each person has an equal right to a happy and prosperous life.
International Day of Happiness originated in Bhutan, the Himalayan Kingdom said to have some of the happiest and most content citizens in the world. Bhutan has led the way in focusing on societal prosperity, by developing a national performance measure called the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. This measure rejects the more common approach of using economic and material wealth alone as an indicator of development. Instead, the GNH Index promotes a more holistic outlook which takes into account both material and spiritual well-being.
To promote happiness as an international goal, we can each do our part in a very real way. Unlike with many other UN commemorations, which often appear so big and daunting that it feels like we as individuals cannot really do much about it, International Day of Happiness is dead simple – if you can do something, however small, to make one other person happy, you’ve already made a huge contribution. Be kind, show appreciation, and importantly, cheer the happy heroes – those people who bring happiness to others in their communities. If you know someone out there doing good and making people happy, share it with the world – you may be amazed how empowering simple acknowledgement and recognition can be.
And remember that making the world a happier place begins with focusing on your own happiness. To quote the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
That’s a pretty big statement, and definitely something we can adopt as a fundamental goal in life.
According to numerous holiday and celebration sources, today is the day to ‘SCUD’, that is, to Savour the Comic and Unplug the Drama. Still a bit confused? So was I.
The basic idea behind the day is to remind people to focus on the bright side of life, and to stop being such drama queens and kings. Have some fun, take life a little less seriously, laugh more. And given the health benefits such a turn of attitude can bring, it’s certainly a day (and a sentiment) worth celebrating.
It has long been suggested that, just like we tend to smile when we’re in a good mood, the arrow also points the other way – our mood may improve when we smile (the “facial feedback” hypothesis). This is nothing new – Charles Darwin already suggested in 1872 that “the free expression of outward signs of an emotion intensifies it”.
The problem is that scientifically proving this relationship is quite difficult, with various factors potentially affecting the results. it is possible that, aside from the action of smiling, the instruction to smile may also create an emotional response (positive or negative – try telling a teenager to smile and watch the reaction!). Furthermore, sitting in a room full of smiling people is likely to raise your mood, whether you’re smiling or not.
Various research projects have been reported where these problems have been innovatively addressed, for example, by asking recipients to hold a pencil either between their teeth (which mimicks a smiling action) or between their lips (which does not), or by using more neutral smiling instructions, such as “Move your lips to expose your teeth while keeping your mouth closed, and pull the corners of your lips outward”.
Once participants were made to simulate a smiling expression, their responses to various positive and negative stimuli were measured, and compared to non-smiling control groups. In general it has been found that the smiling action intensified the participants’ reaction to positive stimuli, but seems to have less impact in response to negative stimuli.
For example, looking at a funny cartoon will lift your mood more when you’re smiling than when you’re not. On the other hand, reading a list of your monthly debts is depressing, and smiling while reading it is unlikely to leave you notably less depressed.
[Strack (1988), Soussignan (2002)]
So, your assignment on SCUD Day is to think happy thoughts and to expose yourself to positive stimuli. At the same time, pack out a big smile, and you will double the positive impact. Oh, and while you’re at it, surround yourself by others doing the same thing – the positive reinforcement of seeing others happily smiling back at you will lift your mood even more.