We read so much about happiness. About how to get happy. Even this website’s name – The Happydemic – contributes to it.
The truth is that ‘happiness’ is not always so easy.
During an interview with Russ Harris, the best-selling author of The Happiness Trap, two happiness myths were exploded:
1. Happiness is the natural state for all human beings.
2. If you don’t feel happy, you’re defective.
Both are balderdash.
As Harris says, our culture insists human are all naturally happy. Yet there’s plenty in the world to rock such a state – loneliness, terrorism, divorce, work stress, unemployment, social isolation, prejudice, lack of self-esteem, bullying, midlife crisis, relationship issues, domestic violence.
Add to that the statistical evidence of the incidence of mental un-wellness: almost 30 percent of the adult population will suffer from a recognised psychiatric disorder in their lifetime; the World Health Organisation estimated that depression is currently the fourth biggest, costliest, most debilitating disease in the world. Yet the belief that everyone else is happy persists.
And of course if you are the only one on earth who clearly is not happy then there’s something wrong with you, right? And then you label yourself (or a health professional does) as ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’ or ‘stressed’.
Two more myths are exploded in Russ Harris’s The Happiness Trap: that we must get rid of negative feelings to create a better life and that we should be able to control how we feel and think. And when you can’t achieve those, then you’re definitely a failure.
Now in writing the next, I may be slammed by other laughers as heretical.
Laughter yoga does not profess to be the silver bullet to cure all sadness and unhappiness in life.
What I believe it does do is helps retune our thinking. We learn through simulated laughter exercises to cultivate a positive outlook. The laughter exercises, along with the clapping and chanting, trick our minds and bodies into thinking ‘happy’. The deep breathing helps restore balance and peace.
That suggests laughter yoga is a complementary tool for those practising mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy.
(c) Heather Grant-Campbell aka Heather Joy