The Connection Between Happiness and Mental Wellbeing at The Intersection of Laughter

How To Connect Happiness To Mental Wellbeing Hint: It involves a LOT of Laughter 

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Liam had withdrawn into himself. He had distanced himself from everyone. He’d had a couple of experiences that had caused him to distrust people. Apart from his longtime friend, Dylan, he didn’t know who else he could trust. He didn’t trust his own judgement of knowing who to trust. He was also questioning if, being Irish, he fitted into British culture.

His recent experiences brought back things that had happened over the twenty years since he first moved to the UK. The way in which people sometimes reacted to him when he was being himself — he seemed to rub people up the wrong way — British people, that is, it never happened with people from other countries, and it never happened in his twenty years living in Ireland. Hence he felt he didn’t fit into or belong to the British way of life — the culture or the people. He felt he was an outsider who wasn’t accepted for who he was.

And so he withdrew into himself. He had Dylan, and he felt it was better to have one true friend, whom he could trust implicitly, rather than a group of so-called friends he couldn’t.

Two situations had caused Liam to distrust people. But first, a little background to what led up to this.

Since his divorce, Liam lived alone, and he was fine with that. He worked for himself as a freelance trainer, developing and delivering workplace training programmes — from helping people improve their communication skills to outplacement programmes, helping people who had been made redundant navigate their way back into the workforce. He enjoyed his work — the interaction with people in group training sessions and the work he did alone, from home, developing the programmes.

But because he was a freelancer, he felt he needed to network more, by way of meeting more people in a work sense, because he didn’t have colleagues as such. And also by way of raising awareness to his work, which would hopefully lead to work. He also felt the need to meet more people socially in a way that wasn’t work-related — he wanted to broaden his circle of people. When he had been married, he and his wife pretty much kept to themselves, so he didn’t have a broad circle of friends.

Liam was aware of a membership body that connected people in his industry — people who worked in People Development. They ran various networking events, which seemed ideal to Liam to help him connect with the people he wanted to connect with. And so he became a member and started attending events locally to him. He enjoyed the events and got to know people, including Mel, who was on the committee that ran the events. Liam’s interest and enjoyment in the events caused Mel to ask him if he’d like to join the committee to help out with the running of future events. He immediately said yes, but he was to come to rue the day he did.

Including Liam, there were fourteen people on the committee. They were from different cultural backgrounds, and most were welcoming to Liam. But three of the six British born members weren’t. They were unfriendly, and they often sneered at his ideas in meetings — Liam couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was going on because one of the three would make what seemed to him to be a sarcastic remark and then exchange glances with the other two. Liam didn’t know what to do because he wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or if it was real.

For some reason, they seemed suspicious of him and his motives for joining the committee — that was something that Liam sensed because they weren’t upfront about it. So, again, he wasn’t sure if he was imagining it or if it was real.

Things continued like this for two years. Liam gave a lot of time and energy to do whatever was needed to plan and deliver the events. He enjoyed this. He enjoyed meeting people at events. He enjoyed working with most of the committee — except for the three, who, to Liam, never seemed to contribute much to help — they did, however, contribute a LOT to meetings following on from the events — by way of criticism, which usually began with … in our day we didn’t do things this way …

Liam found it hard going, but what he enjoyed about being involved with the committee outweighed what he didn’t — the behaviour of the three members, and so he continued.

Until, one day it came to a head, when out of what seemed like nowhere — but it soon became apparent that it had been festering for a while, a six-page document was circulated by the three members, outlining everything that was wrong about the events being run — they were too this, they were too that, they were too the other — it was all so illogical it just beggared belief. All of the criticised events were ones that Liam had suggested(which had been agreed by everyone) and had led on.

It soon became apparent that there had been a lot of bitching, back-biting, and bad-mouthing going on among the three members. What Liam had questioned about what he had been imagining was validated as being real. Liam couldn’t abide this kind of behaviour. He had lived his life by the golden rule “You never say something about someone that you wouldn’t say to their face.”

But it was more than that for Liam. He was actually really upset about what had happened. He felt he couldn’t respect or trust these people again. Respect and trust are two of Liam’s most important values. Although he is quite easy-going, he is very values-driven. His values can cause him to become quite fierce. And quite fierce he became when he told the three what he thought about them and their despicable, disgraceful and disgusting behaviour. He said this is not acceptable behaviour from one human being to another, but for it to come from people for whom the very essence of their work is to support their fellow human beings was utterly disingenuous and beggared belief.

In that moment, Liam walked away from the committee, withdrew from that part of his WorkLife, and withdrew into himself.

Around the same time, he had a similar experience in the social activities he had become involved in, in his life outside of work.

Liam had joined a drama group. He thought this would be a good way to meet people. Growing up in a small community in Ireland, he had been involved in his local drama group, and he had really enjoyed the social interaction and fun element of this. So, he thought this could be something that could once again bring social interaction and fun into his life. But, again, he was to come to rue the day he became involved.

Including Liam, there were twelve people in the group. They were also from different cultural backgrounds, and again most were welcoming to Liam. But again, the British born members weren’t — or two of five of them weren’t. They, too, were unfriendly, and they often laughed at him, unkindly in rehearsals. He sensed they were talking about him behind his back, which he discovered to be true, when one evening, he had arrived early and was doing some work backstage, when the two came along, and not knowing he was there, started making fun of him — from his Irish accent to his red hair to the clothes he wore. Their behaviour was unkind and cruel. Liam walked out from behind the curtain. He didn’t say a word to them (he didn’t know what to say, and he didn’t believe they deserved to take any more of his energy than they had already taken.) he walked out of the hall, and he never went back. Instead, he withdrew himself from another part of his WorkLife and withdrew into himself even further.

Liam, of course, could have confided in Dylan and shared everything that had happened, but he didn’t want to burden him. He felt by withdrawing himself from people who by being in their company made him unhappy, that without them in his WorkLife, he would get back to a place of being happy. He didn’t want to dwell on it, and he also didn’t want to bring it into the time he spent with Dylan. He wanted to enjoy those moments, doing the things they shared an interest in — exploring London and taking train journeys to the country and hiking in the countryside. These were simple pleasures that brought Liam happiness, and he was grateful for that.

But then something cruel and shocking happened. Dylan passed away. He had caught the flu, from which he developed a chest infection. It severely impacted his breathing. While waiting for a hospital appointment, he had an attack at home where he couldn’t breathe. He called out to his son, Rhys, who immediately called for an ambulance. Dylan had lost consciousness by the time they arrived. They tried to resuscitate him but sadly were unable to.

Within three hours of speaking to Dylan, when Liam had said he’d drop round later to visit him, he received a call from Rhys, telling him that his dad was gone.

The sadness Liam felt in that moment grew over the days, weeks and months to follow. Having withdrawn himself from the people he no longer wanted to be around, and now without his dearest friend Dylan, Liam was bereft. He had never experienced such unhappiness in his life before. He knew his mental well being was at an all-time low, but alone, he didn’t know how to pull himself out of it.

Then out of the blue, he had a message from Henry, one of the guys from his drama group. Along with two others, Lucy and Fred (the other three British people, all of whom Liam liked) had also left the group. Their reason for leaving was because they were more interested in comedy than drama, and they had enrolled in a class to help them write and perform comedy sketches. The class were about to put on their end of term sketches and were inviting ‘supportive’ friends to be their audience — they didn’t want an ‘unsupportive’ audience. Or an overly critical audience. They just wanted to try out their work to a hopefully friendly and appreciative audience.

At first, Liam said no, going to a comedy night didn’t feel right. He felt it was disrespectful to Dylan. Not knowing what he was going through, Henry pleaded with him, saying he, Lucy and Fred would appreciate his support. Not wanting to let them down, Liam found himself saying yes. This time he wasn’t going to come to rue the day he said yes.

From the moment the show began, Liam laughed his head off, his belly ached from laughing, he almost fell off his seat from laughter. Together the group performed twelve short sketches, sketches they had written together, all of which was extremely funny. The evening was so immensely uplifting, Liam laughed so much in the moment, and he was still laughing as he walked home. He hadn’t hung around for too long after the show. He briefly caught up with Henry, Lucy and Fred, congratulated them and their fellow comedians for a very fun and funny evening.

In following up to thank him for coming along and supporting them, Henry, Lucy, and Fred invited Liam to more events. He accepted and always found the evening immensely uplifting — the tears of laugher that streamed down his face were tears of happiness. They brought with them a sense of belonging. He no longer felt like an outsider. Instead, he felt he had found a place where he fitted in, a place where he was accepted for who he was — An Irish man in London, a place where he could be himself and not rub people up the wrong way.

Epilogue

Liam was at the happiest place he had been in his WorkLife for a long time. This had a positive impact on his mental wellbeing. He was in a much better place, and he had gotten there through a LOT of laughter.

Help Your Happiness and Mental Wellbeing By Bringing a LOT of Laughter Into Your WorkLife

How?

By Doing More Of What Makes You Laugh

When was the last time you had a really good laugh? What were you doing? Do more of that.

OK, that sounds obvious, and it is. But, as with Liam, we can sometimes miss the obvious. Times when things in our WorkLife have caused us to be unhappy and have negatively impacted our mental wellbeing. We need a reminder of things we could do to have a really good laugh.

To get you started on what you could do that would guarantee a good laugh, Liam has three suggestions:

  1. Befriend a funny person (or three): Some people are just naturally funny. They may have a way with words, or they may have a wacky way of looking at the world. These people are great. If you find one (or three), befriend them.
  2. Have a Favourite Comedian (or three): There are lots of great comedians out there, and I expect you know of at least one comedian who appeals to your particular sense of humour.
  3. Have More Fun on a Night Out: Go to a comedy club — if you don’t already have a funny friend or favourite comedian, doing this will help you find one (or three).

And remember these:

Words of Wisdom

Laughter really is the best tonic.

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As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I create learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times.

The focus of my work begins by helping people identify a WorkLife path that’s true to their core values, purpose, and motivation. This is followed through by creating meaningful short and long-term WorkLife plans while enabling self-coaching, self-directing, and self-leadership to drive these plans.

I bring you stories created from questions and answers drawn from WorkLife lessons. What I’m trying to do is to highlight different solutions, to provide you with a pathway so that even if a particular story doesn’t apply to you, you understand there is a path to follow.

Whatever you want to do, there is a clear path to it, and once you understand those steps, it becomes much more intuitive, and hopefully, it motivates you to get started. Because that’s what you need most, the motivation to get started. The motivation to follow your vision.

I created The School Of WorkLife book series to help people continuously fine-tune their learning, development and growth in the areas most important to them. Click on the series to see all the books available and previews of what’s inside each book.

How To Pursue The Superpower Of Happiness is book 7 in the series. Click on the title to see a preview of what’s inside the book.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of School Of WorkLife Books & Your WorkLife Your Way: Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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