How silliness can save us

Felicity Allman investigates the benefits of humour.

Felicity Allman
8th May 2021
Image Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay
The Global State of Digital report showed that people spent an extra hour per day online in 2021 than in 2020. At nearly six and a half hours daily, that means we’re spending a quarter of our days looking at screens. For a lot of students, that means essays and online classes, but also binge watching and doomscrolling, which we know aren’t good for mental health.

Born as a means of connection, social media platforms were increasingly hailed as destructive. Ever meet up with an old friend and realise you’ve got nothing to talk about because you’ve seen all their holidays and celebrations on Instagram or Facebook? It’s hardly promoting connection. But then lockdown hit, and social media became the best way to stay in touch. For a lot of us, it also became the best way to find some light relief from the monotony of lockdown life, offering ‘collective resilience’.

Humour not only alleviates stress, but can boost your immune system, reduce your blood pressure and reduce chronic pain

In moderation, laughing at silly videos like Rod ‘Lawyer Cat’ Ponton or Lizet ‘Potato Boss’ Ocampo can bring that much-needed mood boost. According to Dr Nick Kuiper at the University of Western Ontario, humour not only alleviates stress, but can boost your immune system, reduce your blood pressure and reduce chronic pain. Or, in the words of Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don’t”.

But the line between too much and too little social media can be a difficult one, so what are your best options for taking advantage of the de-stressing effects of funny content on social media? You can set limits on your devices to turn off apps after you’ve used them for a certain amount of time – I stopped my doomscrolling habit by limiting my time to 15 minutes per day. Some apps even have this option built in. Additionally, you can use your device’s sleep mode function: a time where you can’t access a lot of your phone, promoting better sleep. Bear in mind, however, that night (where your screen displays less blue light) is actually unhelpful for sleep.

If you get stuck for ideas, think back to childhood. Children are masters of fun and mischief

For those of you going social media cold turkey, your options for offline mischief are virtually limitless. Set little surprises for the people you live with (googly eyes are never not funny) or do each other’s makeup… blindfolded, of course. Or take inspiration from programmes like Nailed It! And if you get stuck for ideas, think back to childhood. Children are masters of fun and mischief. Hide and seek is always a winner for tighter lockdown restrictions. Now that we’re allowed out a bit more, I’ve really enjoyed seeing people playing rounders or rollerblading. Playfulness is a great source of human connection, something many of us have craved during the pandemic.

When you’re feeling low, it can be like climbing a mountain just to get out of bed or sit in the sunshine, but laughing and making other people laugh is a great way to lift your spirits. And humour, like willpower, is a muscle, so expect it to feel a bit strange to begin with but you’ll gain momentum and be the ultimate mischief maker in no time.

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