About Last Night :See the funny side and feel the love

July 16, 2017

Q: Married 12 years, with three children, we have been through a tough 18 months. Financial stress, my Dad’s illness, and a wakeful three-year-old have left us tense and irritable, especially when we’re all cooped up in winter. We used to laugh a lot when we were younger, and still see the funny side of things at times, but there’s more snapping and bickering, and as far as sex goes, forget it. How can we get the fun back?

A: You are up to your necks in life right now. When things all happen at once, you tend to go into survival mode. Energy is withdrawn from the inessentials, and you live from day to day, holding it all together. This is normal, but beware getting stuck in this state.

We all want to enjoy life, and need to be kind to ourselves, prioritising rest, recreation, time out, and fun. These things are not trivial luxuries. They are essential for wellbeing.

It is easy to blame one another when things are grim, but we can only keep the whole show on the road if we are working together, and supporting one another. Laughter can play a big role in revitalising your relationship.

We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Research suggests that shared laughter is also a great tonic for your relationship, keeping the “in love” romantic intensity alive.

 In a study published in the journal, Personal Relationships, social psychologist Laura Kurtz, of the University of North Carolina, looked at the social role shared laughter plays.

“We can all think of a time when we were laughing and the person next to us just sat there, totally silent, All of a sudden that one moment takes a nosedive. We wonder why the other person isn’t laughing, what’s wrong with them, or, maybe, what’s wrong with us, and what might that mean for our relationship.”

Kurtz recruited 77 heterosexual couples who had been together for about four years, and they were videoed telling how they first met. Kurtz and her team recorded how often they spontaneously laughed at the same time, and for how long.

“In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher quality relationships,” Kurtz says. “We can refer to shared laughter as an indicator of greater relationship quality.”

It seems obvious that a couple who can laugh together has a good relationship that is likely to last, but there is a “chicken and egg” question here.

“No matter how intuitive this distinction may seem, there’s very little research out there on laughter’s relational influence within a social context,” Kurtz says. “Most of the existing work documents laughter’s relevance to individual outcomes or neglects to take the surrounding social context into account.”

It seems that couples experience a sense of mutual support when they laugh together. “Participants who laughed more with their partners during a recorded conversation in the lab tended to also report feeling closer to, and more supported by, their partners,” Kurtz says. On the other hand, forced, awkward laughter can be a warning sign that something is wrong.

In a 1992 psychological experiment, 52 couples were recorded recounting their shared histories. The team noted whether their manner was positive and effusive or more withdrawn and tired. Three years later, the ebullient couples were more likely to be together than the subdued partners.

Kurtz acknowledges that cultural mores can influence our laughter. Eastern cultures tend to display appreciation with close-mouthed smiles, not the open-mouthed guffaws we Westerners favour.

Kurtz concludes that moments of shared laughter are potent for a relationship. “They bring a couple closer together.”

So, your homework is to laugh together. Watch more comedy than drama for a while. Do some family activities that will bring you laughter. Make a conscious effort to see the funny side of things, and share that.

Practise laughter yoga (hasya yoga). This is a practice involving prolonged, voluntary laughter, and is based on the belief that making yourself deliberately laugh provides the same benefits of spontaneous laughter. Do this together. Rope in the kids. At first it might seem forced and ridiculous, but you will soon find yourselves all laughing heartily at, and with, each other.

Email your questions to abtlast night @gmail.com

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