The Happy Human is the new book from Australia's Laughter Specialist Scott Williams. Exploring the proven link between humour and better health this book is a 'must read' for anyone who wants to generate more laughter in their life!
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Click on the chapter links below to read a few pages from The Happy Human.
The two most important days in your life are the day
you were born and the day you find out why.
What were the odds of YOU being born on this planet? Believe it or not a doctor by the name of Ali Binazir (MD M.Phil) attempted to work this out based on factors such as the age of your parents, the probability of the two of them meeting each other, the odds of going on a second date, the odds of getting married, the odds of conception and finally the odds of birth. In the end the probability of your arrival worked out to be the astronomical figure of about 1 in 10 to the power of 2,650,000. That’s a 10 with 2,650,000 zeros after it! Put another way the odds of it happening were about the same as two million people each being asked to pick a number between one and one trillion and all two million people picking the same number!
Now with odds like that stacked against you, you would have to say the fact you are here means you were either incredibly lucky or you were put here for a reason. A person with a nihilistic view of life would say there is no rhyme or reason to a person’s life and it carries no intrinsic value. Then again, your very existence against such overwhelming odds presents a compelling argument in the opposite – that your presence here on earth must be something more than mere happenstance. The creator of “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy“ Douglas Adams said the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything was 42. That sounds as logical as saying that we are here for no reason at all. So, if we assume we are here for a reason, the next logical question to ask would be why are we here?
That is a deeply philosophical question and not one that has a single, clearly defined answer. Rather it has 7.24 billion answers, one for each individual on the face of the planet (a number that is currently increasing by 155 people per minute or 82 million per year). Each of us see life differently, depending on our vantage point. Since we will never agree on why we are here let us change the question. Let us simply accept the fact that we are here and instead ask
what do we want OUT of life?
When people are asked this question the most common response is “to be healthy and happy.” That is an excellent answer because it gives equal priority to both sides of our humanity. Healthy refers to our physical state of being while happy refers to our mental state of being. These two human states are intrinsically linked and each one plays an important role in the success or failure of the other. Neglecting either one will cause a deterioration in both. The opposite also holds true. There is growing evidence to support the belief that healthy people are generally happier and happy people are generally healthier. When we improve ourselves physically we feel mentally stronger and when we are on top of our game mentally, we feel physically stronger and more readily able to cope with the pressure that comes with life. It makes sense.
Perspective: true understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion;
Distortion: action of giving a misleading account or impression;
Once upon a time life was simple. Black was black and white was white. Now orange is the new black and there are fifty shades of grey. Everything is out of proportion and many of us have misplaced emotion. Those things that mean very little in the bigger scheme of things grab the headlines while the issues that matter most get sidelined. Common sense, once considered one of the most valuable assets a person could possess has been replaced by nonsense, wrapped in a blanket of political correctness. Meanwhile wisdom languishes in a dark corner of the human mind, crushed under the stampede of ‘reality’ TV shows and the hype of celebrity.
Our desire to share in the celebrity spotlight has us posting almost every area of our lives online, airbrushed to look far more exciting than it is. And all this is having a detrimental impact on us as a society. A recent study of Facebook users carried out by the Department of Behavioural Science in Utah found that many U.S college students used the Facebook platform as a way of managing how other people see them. College students use Facebook to present themselves and their life in the most favourable way possible.
This naturally changes the perception people have of the Facebook user and impacts how other Facebook users interpret success and failure in their own lives. Another study that was conducted by two behavioural scientists in Austria found that the more time users spent browsing Facebook posts the more they felt a sense of inadequacy and incompleteness in their lives. It seems the longer you stay on the world’s largest social media networking site the more you begin to feel your life just does not measure up. Everyone’s life seems better than yours when you are reading Facebook. But it is often a case of smoke and mirrors. People are ‘role playing’ – sharing all the good times while holding back on the details of the tough times we all inevitably go through.
Fast Fact: Facebook was originally designed as a network for college students, but today more than half of all online users 65 and over use Facebook.
One of the most controversial studies carried out in the area of human response to social media over the last few years was done by the Facebook organisation themselves. In 2012 Facebook’s data analysts manipulated data being posted by 689,000 of its users for one week to see if they could influence their users through what they termed an ‘emotional contagion’. The study, conducted with the help of Cornell and the University of California initially restricted the amount of positive emotional content a Facebook user would see on their home page. Because the posts being viewed were primarily negative in nature Facebook users began to express their own negative feelings and emotions in posts. When the opposite was done and positive posts flooded home pages, the opposite result occurred.
Facebook concluded that “Emotions expressed by friends via online social networks influence our mood, constituting, to our knowledge, the first ever evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.”
A huge amount of press was generated after Facebook revealed what they had done in the process of doing the study. Lawyers, politicians and Facebook users labelled the study as intrusive and called for investigations into how social networking sites such as Facebook could manipulate the emotional responses of its users. It was feared that this type of manipulation could be used to influence the outcome of elections and the overthrow of countries if used inappropriately. This would seem to be a case of ‘locking the gate after the horse has bolted’ as many of the world’s leading newspapers have manipulated human emotion and behaviour for years, as they pitch a particular flavour of politics in their editorial content.
The difference between social media and traditional media is that the electronic medium becomes an extension of ourselves rather than merely being something that we review.
Laughter is a universal language. A ubiquitous part of natural human behaviour designed to make us feel better! The action of laughter not only brings an immediate feel good response that elevates our mood, but also triggers a series of internal events or reactions that ultimately deliver many long term health benefits. Studies conducted by leading psychologists around the world confirm that laughter creates a buffer against a downward spiral in our mood. Laughter reduces stress. It also helps to prevent heart disease, strengthens our immune system and slows down the ageing process. All this while giving us a more positive outlook, a feeling that in the end everything will be alright. It is a win, win, win, win scenario! It is a great pity then that most of the time we fail to utilise this powerful weapon.
Most of us will not reach the end of our life without experiencing some heartbreak. Events that knock us for six, leaving us overwhelmed by hopelessness and despair. You begin to feel like you will never again be able to experience joy. When we once again can hear the sound of our own laughter it is a sure sign that the healing process has begun.
Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed, merely that the damage no longer controls your life.
There is an abundance of evidence to show that laughter helps speed up mental and physical recovery. To quote Readers Digest, Laughter is the best medicine! So, if laughter is so good for us why are we not laughing more?
To laugh as much and as often as possible is a lofty goal and one of the great challenges we face as adults. We would all dearly love to have each day filled with the kind of joy and surprise we experienced as children but life has a way of dampening our delight. The adult mind is continually exposed to distress. Hundreds of stories that will have a negative influence attached to them are unleashed on a mentally unprepared public on a daily basis and we must try to ensure that we do not get into the habit of simply accepting everything we see or hear on face value. We are inclined to worry about too many things. There are many things that have a positive influence attached to them happening daily and it is most unfortunate that so many go unnoticed or, if acknowledged, are relegated to the final minutes of an evening news broadcast or as a sideline in a newspaper.
Bad news rules the roost because it is sensational.
It is estimated that for every positive news story in the media there are 17 negative stories. Many TV stations provide up to three hours a day of news. Then of course we have the dedicated news channels that broadcast around the clock. With positive to negative news running at 17 to 1 it has reached the point where we can feel bad simply by reading a headline. Balance must be brought back into the positive/negative equation. By understanding how to use positive influence to strengthen our resilience we will be better able to cope in a negative and often hostile world.
HAPPY GO LUCKY ME
“When life seems jolly rotten, there is something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing. When you’re feeling in the dumps, don’t be silly chumps, just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing!”
(Eric Idle -“Bright Side of Life”)
Some people are lucky enough to be born with a naturally positive attitude to life. To quote Eric Idle, they are always looking on the bright side of life. Welcome to the world of The Optimist. These people always expect good things to happen and they bounce back quickly when something bad unexpectedly occurs. Despite this positive approach to life there is an inherent danger associated with this type of person. The optimist is usually unprepared for failure.
“Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect to get it back”.
Some days are diamonds.
Optimist. A person disposed to take a favourable view of things. From the Latin word Optimum, meaning ‘best’.
Pessimist. A person disposed to seeing the worst aspect of things. From Latin word Pessimus, meaning ‘worst’.
Having an optimistic view of life is a blessing. Playwright Oscar Wilde, when discussing the subject observed that: “the optimist sees the donut while the pessimist sees the hole.” Your life can feel very empty when you’re a pessimist. But what is it that determines whether we have an optimistic or pessimistic outlook?
“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts”
Marcus Aurelius Roman Emperor 121 AD – 180 AD
Although once thought to be a dispositional trait within our DNA makeup, researchers now believe that optimism and pessimism are both mindsets that can be altered depending on the individual’s ability to shift their point of view. The optimistic viewpoint is to always try and see life in a positive way. The optimist will go so far as to attach good-natured motives to someone else’s poor behaviour, interpreting the actions in the most favourable light possible. If that sounds like you, then beware! The latest research suggests that the optimist is also required to shift thinking sometimes. A small dose of realism or even pessimism is important for the optimist in order for them to build up some resilience to the harsh realities of our world. Healthy optimism means staying in touch with reality.
Without this reality check the optimist is likely to overestimate the number of good things that will occur in life and overlook the inherent dangers. Despite this, the optimist does seem to find life easier than the poor old pessimist. While the optimist is not always dealt a better hand in life, they will try to make the best of a situation, even if it is not ideal. Optimism is a powerful weapon in the hands of those who seek to maintain a positive mental attitude.
“Life is not always a matter of having good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
The optimistic mindset is always open to the very real possibility that within each adversity there lies the seed of a greater benefit. With a willingness to look for an upside in the downside the optimist will always find some value, however small, in most circumstances. You can rest assured though that it is not always smooth sailing for the optimist. Remember the optimist has a obvious character flaw – they are often more optimistic than realistic. This blind optimism can fly in the face of the facts and when crunch time comes it can often catch the optimist completely unaware.
The optimist is easy to spot in a crowd. For starters one of the beneficial characteristics they possess is self-affirmation, the ability to recognise their own self worth. If the optimist fails at something they do not see this as a indictment on themselves but rather a confirmation that the action they took failed. This is an integral part of mental processing in the mind of the optimist. By placing failure on the action taken rather than on the person the optimist is able to make a distinction between who they are and what they did.
Example: If the optimist fails a test it is not because they are stupid. They failed because they either did not study long enough or did not study the right material.
The optimist will acknowledge failure in the steps taken and then redirect their focus onto what they need to do differently next time in order to achieve the desired outcome. The optimist considers their failures a learning experience and always manage to take something away that they can use in the future. The optimistic life is therefore made up of a series of successes and successful failures. By directing blame onto the action rather than onto the person, three positive responses occur in the mind of the optimist.
Below you will find some of the other chapters and topics covered in The Happy Human
We are at our most vulnerable when we are tired. Fatigue is a leading cause of irritability and irrational thinking, and this is reflected in how we feel – our mood.
Is there any sound greater than that of children laughing? It is a pure, infectious sound that is reassuring to anyone feeling a little jaded by life. It should come as no surprise to any of us that children laugh far more than adults.
The branch of scientific study that investigates the effects of laughter on the human body is known as Gelotology. A person who chooses to specialise in this unusual field of research is referred to as a Gelotologist. Both words derive from the Greek word gelos, meaning laughter.
During the first month of life, the number of connections in the human brain (called synapses) dramatically increases from 50 trillion to 1 quadrillion. If a baby’s body grew at the same rate, their weight would increase from 3.8 kilograms at birth to 77 kilograms at one month old!
Memory function begins to operate effectively from five years of age. Some of us have some recall prior to this age, but clear, cognitive memories are retained in bulk from the age of five onwards.
We have around 70,000 thoughts a day. Sleep gives our brain the opportunity to process and categorise these thoughts, consolidating the important ones into memory and ‘unlearning’ the information we won’t be using again.
Stress is one of the main factors causing insomnia and other sleep disorders. When stressors are present, the body naturally heightens its response system, thus, leading to wakefulness.
“A well developed sense of humour is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”
WILLIAM ARTHUR WARD
In this section you can see some happy feedback received from readers.
This little book packs a punch! ... in the best possible way. I love it! Scott Williams, 'The Laughter Specialist', is one of the happiest people I know. Here, he generously shares his simple and foolproof (yes, I said it out loud!) philosophy of how to be happy in the world today. His humorous take on that 'not so little' voice inside our head is insightful and brilliantly educational. Seriously folks, in the words of the great Molly Meldrum, "Do yourselves a favour..."
Scott Williams' book is like its author: wise and witty, intelligent and hilarious, therapeutic and fun. I feel smarter, happier and healthier for having read it. Highly recommended.
"I'm half way through the book and loving it! Still not as good as seeing this man 'live' though. He recently completed a series of presentations on "The Happy Human' around the country for me and the audiences (over 2000 in total) rated his speech with the highest score ever in eight years for any speaker with an average of 9.5 out of 10. One verbatim quote sums it up “I personally really enjoyed the last session with Scott Williams (Dr Laughter). This was a great way to finish the day and really did put things (life) into perspective”.
Best Value! Pick up The Happy Human in paperback and as an ebook for your iPad, iPhone and Kindle.