This is an account of day 18 of the 21-Day Daily Stoic Freedom Challenge, for accounts of other days please click here.
The task for day 18 of the 21-Day Daily Stoic Freedom Challenge is to laugh it out. Per Seneca, “He who laughs has joy. The very soul must be happy and confident, lifted above every circumstance.” So, today the challenge encourages us to laugh as much as possible, even forcing ourselves if we have to. Laughter is the best (and cheapest) medicine as it triggers the brain’s emotional and reward centres through the release of endorphins. In other words, we should experience a reduction in stress if we make time for laughter today.
The accompanying Daily Stoic email for today’s task tells us what we should do and why:
Today we challenge you to put a special focus on laughter.
Dial up one of your favorite funny movies that you haven’t watched in a while. Binge watch that series people have been telling you about? Search YouTube for classic bits from some of the great stand-up comics like Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, Sarah Silverman, Pete Holmes, Ellen Degeneres, Dave Chappelle, or Robin Williams (some more suggestions below).
Throughout the day, see if you can force yourself to laugh in situations where typically laughter wouldn’t come organically. You’ll see for yourself that, like anything, laughter is a practice. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The better you get at it, the more you’ll keep doing it.
Wait a minute, you might be saying, this doesn’t sound very philosophical! In fact, it is far more philosophically-minded than you might think. Comics are basically modern-day philosophers. Both comedians and philosophers are out in the world, constantly observing and questioning that world, then reporting back their observations with the intention of better equipping their audience to navigate life. “Vain is the word of a philosopher,” Epicurus once said, “which does not heal the suffering of man.” Centuries later, Thoreau expressed this same thought: “To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school…it is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.” You could replace “philosopher” with “comic” quite seamlessly. In fact, some have and do!
For those unfamiliar with British television, there’s a BBC comedy panel show called Would I Lie To You? in which two teams compete as each player reveals unusual facts and embarrassing personal tales for the evaluation of the opposing team. Some of these are true; some are not, and it is the panellists’ task to decide which is which. The comedian Bob Mortimer is a regular guest on the show and I always find him hilarious, so I chose to watch highlights of his appearances for my “laugh it out” task. Luckily, Bob never disappoints and it made me smile after a long day:
In the challenge’s group Slack channel, I also had to smile at a comment from fellow participant Carrie, as I do enjoy a bad pun:
More of a chuckle than a laugh out loud but here is today’s crytoquip (spoiler alert) solution from the Houston Chronicle “Declaration about a firefly or ladybug that prefers ascending surfaces: It’s an uphill beetle.”
To laugh is a decision, a choice. Although we may not feel like it, simply forcing ourselves to laugh can positively impact our mood. And the more we do it, the better we get at it. The more natural it becomes. Make time for laughter – today and every day. If you’re struggling to find things to laugh at, just follow the advice of Epictetus:
He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.