Positivity Practice #7: Amusement

Welcome to Positivity Practice #7! This week we’re taking a closer look at the positive emotion of Amusement. If you’re just joining us, we are more than halfway through our practices based on the top 10 positive emotions from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s book Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life.

If you recall, we’re learning ways to “broaden and build” upon positive emotions, Dr. Fredrickson’s bedrock philosophy. The most important thing to remember is to be open to them and to savor them.

Amusement: the state or experience of finding something funny; something that causes laughter or provides entertainment.

Synonyms: mirth, merriment, lightheartedness, hilarity, glee, delight, joviality, fun, pleasure, leisure, relaxation, enjoyment, interest, recreation.

The NO FUN Zone

In case you are very lucky, most of us have experienced the no fun zone. We’ve worked at a no fun office in a no fun job with no fun colleagues or a no fun boss. We were raised with a no fun parent, grew up with no fun siblings or no fun relatives. We have no fun friends. We come to realize we are living a no fun life. We have become no fun. Period.

When I was developing the “breathe” aspect of the bend burn breathe (b3) ethos, it was imperative for me to include amusement, fun and play. Why? First, let’s take a look at amusement’s antonyms: gloom, melancholy, misery, pain, sorrow, trouble, unhappiness, depression, drudgery, and sadness. Yikes! Second, amusement thrives with others. Just think about how contagious laughter is. It’s a social emotion and allows for deeper connections with others. It’s hard to live a great life with doom and misery knocking on the door.

It’s also very easy to lose sight of amusement in our day to day lives as adults. I clearly remember my first days of First Grade. It was as if I was punched in the stomach. See, I THRIVED in Kindergarten where imagination and play was emphasized (as well as nap time, cookies, and juice). When I stepped into that First Grade classroom, it was completely different. The desks were lined up in rows and it was a lot less colorful. Pencils replaced crayons, lined paper replaced colored construction paper. Everything became very serious. And it was no fun. Remember how much trouble you’d get into for chuckling while the teacher was at the front of the room. It wasn’t all doom and gloom. As I progressed through school, the best teachers were the ones who made learning fun. I was able to channel my creativity into educational art projects at every turn.

Lighten Up

Yes, that’s right, yeah you, reading this. Lighten up! Start with curling up the corners of your mouth. Next, take a deep breath and relax your shoulders.  Let’s inject some humor and playfulness into our day. If you have a pet or a kid, you’re in luck. Pets are prodigious playing machines and kids are prodigious laughing machines. Spending time with either one is bound to put a smile on your face and wipe some worries away. If you find yourself in the same old grind at work, take a break and peruse YouTube for funny cat videos or your favorite comedian.

I’ve found a great use of my time during my morning commute on the bus into the City. The digital New York Times has a “Best of Late Night” section with the monologues by the very funny late night show hosts from the night before. The Huffington Post also posts similar videos so you have about every host covered.  I spend virtually the entire ride chuckling to myself and occasionally out loud, and it puts me in a great mood. I also get a treat on Sunday morning with the best of Saturday Night Live posts on YouTube from the night before. I love political humor so it’s all especially entertaining (and necessary).

There’s a reason why America’s Funniest Home Videos was a huge sensation. Amusement takes us to a less serious place. It gives us respite for what ails us at any given time.

Having a funny person in your life is a big help, too. My dad was a big joke teller. He told some very funny jokes (by today’s standards most would be considered way too politically incorrect and entirely inappropriate). He would never fail to have a new joke up his sleeve. It’s a real gift. Although I am not a very good joke teller in person, I funnel that same sensibility into my original performance art on stage by creating deliberately offbeat characters and situation when there is a more serious message to be had (as they say, a spoonful of sugar…).  Otherwise, it would be entirely too serious and no fun. That’s why comic relief is so important.

My performance art has been inspired and influenced by great character-driven comedians such as Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner, Tracy Ullman, Madeline Kahn, Bette Midler, and Jennifer Saunders, with my favorite contemporary funny lady being Kate McKinnon. I have always loved stand-up comedy and my faves are Robin Williams (the king), Eddie Izzard, Billy Connoly, Chris Rock, Denis Leary, Margaret Cho, and Sandra Berhard. Why am I sharing this list with you? Because laughter is just a click or a swipe away. We literally have amusement at our fingertips. You can find any one of these great talents on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon or Spotify, 24/7.

What amuses you? It’s unique to every individual. Are there ways that you can lighten up? Spend less time with a no-fun person? Are there some fun and amusing things that you can do easily? Take 10 minutes today to answer these questions and then take some time tomorrow to put one in action!


2 thoughts on “Positivity Practice #7: Amusement

  1. I had a similar experience in first grade! I often think back to that as the beginning of my worry about doing well! In second grade I had an older teacher who loved to have us create skits and then we would go to perform them for senior centers. I loved it and learned so much that year. I don’t consider myself creative necessarily but am certainly spending time now trying to tap back into my creative side as a means of exploring my full self. Great post.

  2. Thanks so much Adeline. Fostering and nurturing creativity as an adult can be a real block for those who label themselves as not being creative. I am so happy to hear that you are exploring this aspect of yourself more. I am doing research on creativity and the argument I am hearing again and again is that as humans, we are all inherently creative (we couldn’t survive otherwise). I think that we do a lot of unnecessary comparisons or limit ourselves to what it means to be creative. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in the New Year!

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