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When was the last time you laughed?
Really laughed, that is — so hard that your stomach starts to hurt and tears run down your face?
During the past year there has not been a lot to laugh about, admittedly.
The news has been overwhelmingly grim and worrying, and it seems as soon as one issue has finally disappeared over the horizon, the next, even bigger one, pulls up in town.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the virus sweeping the world, the news keeps getting worse.
True, the discovery, approval and introduction of several vaccines around the globe has definitely been a bright spot. But it will be months yet before the vaccine roll-outs start making any noticeable dent in the growing mountain of cases worldwide.
The other particularly depressing happening has been the violence spilling out overtly across the United States, thanks to the incitement of the now twice-impeached Donald Trump in the last flickerings of the twilight of his appalling presidency.
As we watch aghast from afar the increasing division between Democrat and Republican, pro-Trump and anti-Trump supporters, liberals versus conspiracy theorists, it is distressing to think where this path might take one of the world’s great homes of democracy.
At the same time as these colossal international events play out, we have our own issues continuing to cause anxiety, including ensuring borders are tight to keep out the virus, racial tensions, poverty, crime, road deaths, domestic violence, and the state of the nation’s mental health.
There are also the usual seasonal freak accidents and weather-related woes, such as flooding and damage to crops.
And Stephanie Haworth in Dunedin’s Maori Hill is refusing to mow her Claremont St verge.
If ever we needed something to laugh about, it is now.
But where are all the laughs? There must be funny things happening out there somewhere.
Perhaps the first step might be to replace the usual television news with something more akin to a Two Ronnies kind of bulletin.
We could do with something like: “The funeral took place today of Mr Spenser P. Dobson, a famous compiler of crossword puzzles. After a short service, he was buried 6 down and 3 across.”
Or: “The toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.”
Laughter, and comedy, play a vital role in maintaining and boosting our mental health. We need to see the funny side of things, and an appreciation of the absurd can do wonders.
At this time of particularly heavy goings-on, experts recommend we be honest with ourselves and ensure we switch off mentally and physically from the news when we have had enough.
For the news junkies among us, each bulletin or publication keeps drawing us back, wanting to find out more.
But not everyone has that same compulsion to be “across things”, to use the awful parlance of the times.
The summer holidays have allowed many to break their news routines. The lucky ones have even managed to travel out of cellphone range.
As we stare down the barrel of what could be another long, tumultuous year, perhaps one of the best strategies might be to maximise the amount of time you spend with people who make you laugh.
Laughter has many health-giving properties. It is good for us mentally, emotionally and physically, reducing our stress levels and strengthening our bonds with others.
Of course it is not always possible to laugh. Instead, seriously consider turning off the news — but keep this newspaper close at hand — when you have had enough.
Also, switch off the notifications that pop up on your cellphone and annoyingly keep you in touch with reality.
Remember it is summertime in New Zealand.
The days are long, some of them are even warm, and the birds are chirping happily.
Compared with billions of others, we are possibly the most fortunate people on Earth.