My son, who turned four years old this weekend, approaches every day, task and challenge with one philosophy: “YAAAAAAAARRRRGH!”
Chances are if you’ve ever met a three or four year old, you’ll be familiar with this idea. The philosophy basically consists of yelling “YARGH” at the top of your lungs as you run directly at your sister, the toilet, the bath tub, the dog, your father, or anything else you’re hoping to get done in your day.
There’s a reckless abandon you need to adopt when living life through the Philosophy of YAAAAARGH – you don’t let little things like physics get in your way and sometimes you need to use your face to break your fall as you come off your bike because you were going too fast down a hill. But there’s also beauty in it, his high energy approach to every situation yields giggles and laughs almost every time for him and his sister.
There’s a reason we grow out of this stage. There wouldn’t be enough emergency room beds to house us all if we didn’t learn risk aversion at some point. But what if we keep the giggles and laughter and avoid the face-planting? There are significant mental health benefits to laughter and too often the idea of having a bit of a laugh and some fun takes a back seat to the serious business of living life or getting your job done. Behind the “good feeling” we get from laughter are a number of chemical reactions that occur within our brain – it alters dopamine and serotonin activity and releases endorphins. It also decreases a number of stress-making hormones and laughter therapy has been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of depression (Yim, 2016).
So how do you fit some YAAARRRGH into your day and get those laughs in?
Maybe you’re a leader in a workplace, is there an opportunity to make fun a pillar of your culture? Workplaces that incorporate fun into their day-to-day see an increase in morale, productivity and engagement. They’re also more likely to attract new employees, see increased levels of communication between team members and higher levels of customer satisfaction (Ford et al. 2003).
Perhaps you’re a parent – does deliberate fun have a place in your parenting style and your parenting goals? Activities that generate laughter away from screens can have benefits for child and parent alike. It’s an easy way to reduce stress for mum and dad, and for the kids it can have a positive impact on the reduction of childhood obesity, improve parental attachment and other social skills (Escobar-Chaves et al. 2010).
Your idea of fun might not involve anyone else. Some of my son’s best moments are on his own, creating whole worlds that he explores, conquers and revels in. Maybe you’re past the age of make believe but do podcasts, books, music or movies generate those happy hormones for you?
No matter who we are we have an opportunity to choose to fit some YAAARRRGH into our day. Try and avoid ending up in an emergency room but tap into your inner 4 year old and let rip with some giggles and laughter!