If you think Canada is one the best places for children to grow up, you might want to think again: in a brand new survey, the UN measured the world’s rich nations and Canada ranks… in the bottom half!!! Canadian children report themselves to be among the unhappiest in the developed world, placing 24 out of 29 according to their own views of life satisfaction.
This morning, as I was thinking of what type of blog I could write to make people aware that April 13 is Pursuit of Happiness Day, I came across the above article. Being in the Laughter Wellness world, I find these statistics quite alarming, especially in a country like Canada, and I decided to reflect on them for a moment.
Reading about this new UN study on child well-being index in developed countries and how poorly Canada ranked in it, it immediately reminded me how during one of my recent speaker engagements on the benefits of laughter for stress management, a mother approached me at the end of my presentation to share with me that my presentation made her realize that she always tells her son to stop laughing and therefore is somewhat teaching him the wrong example. She admitted that she tends to think he should not laugh all the time the way he does, as he needs to learn to be more serious to be successful in life when he grows up. When I asked her how old her son is, she told me he was only 6 years old! Now, this might make no sense at all when you read this at first, until you realize that her own Dad used to tell her not to laugh when she was a kid to be serious and successful. Then you can understand why she was naturally repeating this pattern to be a good mother to her kid, just like her Dad did his very best to be a good father based on what he most likely himself learned from his own parents. This prompted me to ask her whether, now that she was armed with this new perspective that her son was just being a kid whenever he laughs for no reason which is highly beneficial and natural especially at such a young precious age, she could actually be opened to let her own son teach her how to bring more laughter into her own life and by the same token break her family’s pattern & tradition to teach children to stop laughing at such a young age. What is interesting is that at first, she used the same excuse so many adults uses, that is that she had no time for that: she has 2 jobs to survive, goes to school, etc. I would not take that excuse, which I hear from so many people who “forget” to practise laughing in-between club sessions, and suggested to her that she takes the time to laugh “with” him whenever there is a good reason to laugh together instead of spending the same amount of time telling him not to laugh. This made her realize her priorities were in the wrong place and gladly accepted the challenge. And I can’t wait to hear back from her on her progress in this area.
This story then suddenly reminded me of another one: another mother, this time a lady I met in France while conducting a Laughter Training session last summer, who told me that she had a similar experience with educating her teenager boy on how to behave like she thought he should according to society: by ‘behaving’, e.i. by not laughing. I recently touched base with her to follow on the progress of her decision after my training to bring more laughter into her relationship with her son. She did report that ever since she learned more about the benefits of laughing for no reason during my training session, her own laughter has changed: more audible, full of breath, almost out of control. She was happy to inform me that she now laughs much more frequently and even feels that her mind & body are constantly on the outlook for an opportunity to laugh. She then told me that she reacts much more positively to the jokes and teasing of her son and learned to simply honour his very own sense of humour that is so typical of teenagers to the best of her own ability as a mother and an adult. She feels this new relationship with laughter has truly changed her own life.
I am blown away by such testimonials. They might explain why so many people in senior homes share with me similar stories, even though they are at a different stage of their life. They often attribute having a hard time to laugh spontaneously with me to the fact that their parents told them many times to ‘behave, be serious, avoid being noticed, etc.’ Seniors often tell me that they even forgot they have the permission to laugh for no reason. And they very often have to dig deep into their memories as far back as their childhood to remember simple moments of sheer joy and pure fun.
It breaks my heart every time I hear these stories. They are the proof that we raise kids with the belief that it is not okay to laugh for no reason, that if you look serious it means you are successful and confident. Well, I don’t know you, but I believe it is high time we break this cycle of unhappiness, especially in the developed world where we are so often caught into our 1st world problems that we easily forget to go back to the basics that bring us joy in life: connect with people.
We need to teach our kids and remind adults that it is physiologically impossible to laugh/be happy/be kind and be mad/angry/violent at the same. This simple fact brings happiness to a simple matter of choosing our state of mood in any given moment. If more people could understand this concept, the world would immediately become a better place. There might even be less violence in many families and therefore in our society.
And I strongly believe it all starts with the values we teach our children at a very young age. After all, children understand it inherently: on average, they laugh 400 times per day, most of the time without any reason, while adults laugh 15 times per day… and that’s on a good day, that is with many valid reasons to laugh! Think about it: children laugh before they can speak and even before they can comprehend complexe language – e.i. humour. So, we, as adults, definitely need to re-learn the art of laughing for no reason.
I have evidence of the simplicity of this every time I have families participate at my Laughter Club’s sessions: the kids are natural at it; the parents tend to want to shush them down at first, and then once they get it, they play along with them, and you can see a new relationship is being built between them, at a very profound and powerful level. This might explain why no later than last week one of these kids whispered in my ear “I have never laughed like this with my parents; I love it!” even though this family seemed quite natural at it at first glance or why another kid, this time in a session I led in France, enjoyed this whole experience of laughing with his parents and a bunch of stranger for no reason that he announced to the world: “this is what I want to do when I grow up; I want to be like Marjorie and make people laugh!” All I can think of is “Wow!” and how blessed I am to have learned this simple tool from Dr Kataria and grateful for being able to share it with the world.
April is Humour Month and World Laughter Day takes place in May: both are great reminders that there is still a lot of work to be done to instill in our children the need to retain their ability to laugh for no reason instead of putting it in a box and out of sight as they get older. It is our responsibility as adults to teach these values to our younger generation for more peace and less violence in the world. So, Canada, let’s do our share: let’s bring more laughter into our schools for a more peaceful world, especially since this would also greatly contribute to our being ranked higher for the level of happiness of our children and our future overall.
Happy Mind = Happy Life. And since laughter is truly international, let’s spread it around us, one person at a time.
So… WHO will YOU make laugh today? Make it a priority for a more peaceful world. If you need help, join a local laughter club.