By Sue Stephenson
Reviewed by Harriet Hart
Kidding Around by Sue Stephenson is an activity –based book designed to “teach children and teens about the benefits of happiness, humor and laughter in their lives, as well as how to deal with those days when they’re angry, sad, or just stressed out.”
The book is divided into three sections: Part One: Put on a Happy Face explores sources of happiness (intrinsic and extrinsic) and helps kids cope with unpleasant feelings; Part Two: Laughing Out Loud identifies twenty-one benefits of laughter and provides activities to promote it; and Part Three: Loosen Up Your Funny Bones outlines stages in the development of humor and explores the differences between humor and comedy.
I found this book entertaining and informative. While geared to school teachers, it is useful for parents, grandparents and anyone volunteering with kids (as many expatriates at Lakeside do). As I read, I remembered with pleasure my last visit with my six-year-old granddaughter, who invited me to watch Up, her favorite film, and who giggled infectiously before the funny parts occurred. We sat on the sofa laughing together and both went to bed afterwards wearing big grins.
This book contains a lot of interesting information. Did you know that researchers conclude that 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% depends on circumstances and 40% is a matter of choice? That means that almost half of our personal happiness is within our control: who we choose as friends, how we spend our money, whether or not we get involved in our communities all can make a difference.
Kidding Around includes exercises we can do to assess our own personal happiness. I tried one, making an “awesome list.” The items on my list came easily on a sunny Sunday morning and included the vermillion flycatcher sitting on a wire, the neighbor’s palm tree, an excellent cup of freshly brewed coffee, and my two cats curled up beside me on the couch. A second great activity is called The Happiness Project and involves deciding on three areas of life where you could feel happier. An example is “making new friends.” For 21 days you focus on this goal, making (and hopefully keeping) resolutions geared to achieving it.
Laughter turns out to be the best medicine. Did you know that only 11% comes from jokes, 17% from the media and a whopping 72% from our interactions with others? Or that on average adults laugh 15 times per day and kids from 3-400 times? Did you know that just as no two people have the same fingerprint, we each have a personal “fun print?”
The author sprinkles wonderful quotations throughout the text. My favorite is: “Laughter is to life what shock absorbers are to cars. It won’t take the potholes out of the road, but it sure makes the ride smoother.” (Barbara Johnson). In addition, she suggests plenty of activities to try and provides excellent resource lists that include books, magazines, websites and DVDs.
If you want to increase your chances of living a longer, healthier, happier life (and be even more popular with your grandchildren) buy this book at Diane Pearl’s, The Bagel Place or at Yves Restaurant. An ePub version in English and Spanish will be available soon. Check out Sue’s website at www.suestephenson.ca.