Have We Forgotten How To Have Fun?

Apes Laugh

Let’s face it. This stage in our lives can often be stressful. We have high pressure jobs that are demanding, vicissitudes in our economic situations, family responsibilities, sleep deprivation and overcrowded roads full of road-rage potential. Stress, as mentioned in my two previous posts, is a normal and damaging part of our lives.  Prolonged stress can pose significant health risks.


Your body is made to react to stressful situations in ways that would keep you safe from predators and other dangers. It releases adrenaline and Cortisol which increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boost energy supplies. When stressers are constant and you feel under attack, your fight-or-flight reaction stays on and your body reacts accordingly. The result can be in the form of anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep deprivation, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment. This according to the Mayo Clinic.



I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.

I’m always struck by that quote from legendary actress Audrey Hepburn because it is so true. Study upon study shows the health benefits of laughter and fun. Humor lightens our burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you rooted. We know this stuff.  It is not a new revelation. But somehow, it seems to me, that we have forgotten how to laugh, how to have fun. Our society is far more sensitive to racy jokes. Social media feeds the “gotcha” reaction to everything and anything considered not politically correct.  We are a more uptight people who need surgery to remove the stick from our collective asses.

The benefits of leisure and recreation are clear but are we taking full advantage of that knowledge? Are we having fun? Are we laughing enough?  Or do we confine it to the one or two weeks of vacation time each year? Here are a few tips to get us back on the fun train:

Maintain a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re an uptight bore. Take a moment to laugh at the absurd things in your life.

Spend time with friends that bring out the laughter.

Engage your partner. Avoid bitching and complaining about your ass-hole boss or your annoying office mate. Share stories about amusing things that happened throughout the day. Like the dude that had toilet paper sticking out of his pants and no one told him.

Avoid laughing at the expense of others. Aside from toilet-paper-dude, don’t be cruel with your laughter. You’ll only feel guilty later.

Watch a comedy show or movie when feeling stressed. Sometimes, you need not follow up a stressful day with The Walking Dead.

Find a funny video on line and share it. There are a million of them out there.

Act like a child. Who knows better how to have fun than our children. Have a water balloon fight in the back yard or some other messy activity.

Run around the house naked and shake your butt in the mirror. Trust me it works. But only if you are home alone. Or maybe not. You decide on your comfort level with that one.

PryorShout out to those who spent a lifetime bringing out the laughter in us all: Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bernie Mac, Gilda Radner, Bill Cosby, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Cheech & Chong, Don Rickles, Phyllis Diller…the list goes on.

I’d love to hear about your idea of fun. What makes you laugh? Do you have a hobby? What are your silly moments? Can you make milk spill out of your nose? Show me.

In the meantime, enjoy this funny video. It breaks the rule about laughing at someone else’s expense but, he is a dictator so screw him.


Mood Indigo – Part 2


Green Lakes Park
Green Lakes State Park

I imagine that the things that cause sadness also cause stress. As noted in part one of Mood Indigo, we as a society are a pretty blue bunch. We find less joy in our careers than many other societies around the world. Most likely because most of us are not doing what we really want to be doing. Hell, it may not even be an option for some.

Given the sad state we find ourselves cocooned in, adding stress to the picture can only increase the fragility of our mental being. But there are things that we can do to counterbalance the negative affects.

This is not new stuff but it is stuff we often forget about. I’m speaking of the power of green space. Researchers are discovering, with each passing day, that surrounding yourself with nature can be one of the most powerful stress-relievers available. And its mostly free.

Did you know that those who live in areas with the most amount of green space show lower levels of cortisol and their self-reported feeling of stress is lower than those who spend more time in urban settings?  Catherine Ward Thompson, director of the OPENspace Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland says that getting outside forces you to get a little exercise which is a natural energy boost.

It is said that focusing on natural scenes gives voluntary attention a rest and allows involuntary attention to take over and recharge the human psyche. In other words…chill the f*#! out!  Cities with high numbers of parks are reportedly having more success battling obesity and diabetes.  Even relatively passive contact with nature-such as viewing it from a window- lowers blood pressure and anxiety levels.

So what do you do?  It’s as easy as a walk in the park really.

You must find your go-to spot. I have 2 of them. While I do have windows in my office, one is roughly 4 feet off the ground and looks onto another building. The other provides a view of the landscape outside our building. I need only glance over my left shoulder for a glimpse of leaves and flowers bending to the force of a breeze. But on a particularly stressful day at work, I take a stroll across my University’s quadrangle. The trees, grass and ivy covered buildings provide a sense of peace and calming.

Syracuse University Quad
Syracuse University Quad

On a sunny day, when it is quiet there, it’s like floating on a cloud. And the affects are far from ephemeral. The peace stays with me for quite some time for the remainder of the day. I am also fortunate to have a rose garden just two blocks from my office. There I think through issues or think about nothing at all. Nothing but the wonderful variety of roses to behold.

My favorite thinking spot
My favorite thinking spot

Perhaps one of my favorite places in the world is Green Lakes State Park which lies just a mile and a half from my home. Acres and acres of woods, trails, two lakes and a championship golf course provide the perfect natural setting. I go often after work and on weekends to run, walk the dogs or quietly stroll and think. One of my favorite thinking spots is the bench pictured above.

The trail circles around both lakes and branches off too
The trail circles around both lakes and branches off too

A stroll on the scenic trail around Green and Round lakes is good for people watching or nature watching. Brief chats with other visitors is also an added benefit.

Fallen trees scattered about the shore line is beautiful in itself
Fallen trees scattered about the shore line is beautiful in itself

The park staff take great care in leaving things in their natural state which makes for a more authentic natural experience.

Good for family time
Good for family time

While I do enjoy my alone time, my more favored moments are when my family joins me on the journey. We talk and laugh and connect in ways that you can’t in front of the television.

These natural spaces need to be protected in order to preserve our own health. Our physical and mental health are dependent on them.

If you want less stress and more happiness in your life, don’t take green space for granted. In fact, be more strategic with how you incorporate it. Do anything that you would normally do inside on the outside. Eat a meal outside or trade a treadmill run for an outdoor run. Surf the net on your patio. Do you normally prescribe an afternoon coffee pick-me-up? Try walking on a nice day instead. Move a casual or work related chat with a colleague outdoors.

Spring and summers in the northeast are very short. I try to take advantage of as much outdoor time as I can. I am a much happier person when I do.

Do you have a go-to green space?  I’d love to hear about it.