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Sunday 23 September 2018
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A Carnival of laughter

JOKE: Two pigeons met one day, took a fancy to each other and arranged a rendezvous on the first floor window ledge of a building on Independence Square. The she pigeon was bang on time. The male pigeon was late. She hopped from one leg to the next, nervous that she might have been stood up. Just when she decided to cut her losses she looked down and saw the beautiful specimen she was waiting for strutting along on the pavement. He saw her and fluttered up to her. “So sorry to be late, and on our first date, but it was such a lovely evening that I decided to walk.”

It’s not a great joke but I hope it made you laugh, or at least chuckle. If it did, then it would have helped to slightly lengthen your life. A friend of mine, who is nothing if not alternative, has changed career to become something of a guru on laughing and its health benefits. That is not to say she has become a comedian, that would not suit her, but she undertook a lot of research and wrote papers on the health benefits of having a good old belly laugh that have taken her far, and I don’t mean just to international conferences. She believes that it is possible to reverse life-threatening diseases through one’s positive approach, and has personal experience of it.

Humour strengthens your immune system and healing mechanisms by making your mind and emotions work together to keep you well, not against one another to cause ill health. If you go to laughteronlineuniversity.com you will read that when we laugh, the tissues of the inner lining of blood vessels [the endothelium] expand to increase blood flow. Our blood pressure rises and when we stop laughing the blood pressure reverts to its normal level, causing us to breathe more deeply and send more oxygenated blood through the body. That process also de-stresses the hormones produced in the hypothalamus section of the brain that also cause strokes and heart attacks. So, laughing is actually an exercise that helps keep our blood vessels and brain healthy and all our body well.

And laughing could also save your life in a moment of crisis. One trick I learned from my days of travelling far and wide was that one could defuse a dangerous encounter by resorting to joking, a big smile or gentle laugh, especially when language was a barrier to understanding. In a tense situation everyone’s pressure is running high and lowering the tension allows everyone to relax and feel relieved. In fact, humour used in this way is recognised scientifically as a primal tool that human beings, as social creatures, use. It does not mean that something is funny, rather, it is a form of appeasement, manipulation or subversion.

Abundant and diverse research shows that workers who deal constantly with tragedy and disaster use humour a lot as a coping mechanism even though some of it might strike us as pretty crude and black. All of us know people who never seem to be serious about anything. You might call it the limin’ mentality, but that could well be a safety valve. And you might argue that it is part of the Trini psyche, which is just as well if you consider how many sour faced people there are about the place – those working in Government, shops, businesses, doctor’s receptions, petrol stations; the list is endless. Maybe they all need to learn about how good humour, even a smile, could make them happier, less miserable souls. Imagine, they take all that pent up, negative energy through the day with them and then to their homes. No wonder people snap and resort of violence. Little wonder too that we have so much obesity, diabetes, heart and other diseases related to unhealthy lifestyles. It is not just about diet, that much is becoming clearer.

Laughter coaching is a remedial therapy that is available in many parts of the world. Therapists say that significant reductions in stress levels can occur in minutes and last long. One report claimed that the psychological effect of one single hour of watching a funny video lasted 12-24 hours. Laughter clubs and even laughter yoga are being added to the list of help-yourself lifestyle therapies.

Carnival is a great time to get our endorphins pumping so I recommend trying to take advantage of the opportunity to have a laugh at the absurdities of the ole mas’ and a smile at the beauty of colour and form of the pretty mas’ and appreciate what an incredible homemade therapy we devised.

Happy Carnival, dear reader.

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