Picture it: I’m taking my morning walk and happen upon one of those speed-monitoring machines. You know, the ones that flash wildly if you’re going above the posted speed limit. My thoughts raced faster than my legs could go, answering my first curious question—that walking speeds could not be monitored. Drat! That would have been fun!
Then I started mentally dialoguing with the machine, wondering if people really do slow down or whether they just ignore them since there is no real reprimand of any kind.
In the 1991 movie L.A. Story starring Steve Martin, Martin’s character refers to the above scenario as “rejoicing in the silliness of life.” This classic film is filled with humorous takes on the many nuances of life in Los Angeles, such as parking meters only for Libras, which as a Libra tickled my funny bone big time.
My favorite segment shows weatherman Martin opting every morning to avoid traffic by driving on the sidewalk, bouncing down an ally past neighbors who routinely wave, careening through a gas station, sailing across the L.A. River channel, and bouncing down several flights of stairs.
Do you think that silliness is just for children? If so, please reconsider. It may surprise you to learn that for the past ten years, silliness has been researched and many papers have been written on the subject. Rene Proyer, a psychologist at the University of Zurich has written more than a dozen about the importance of playfulness.
According to her studies, benefits include a tendency to be more creative, outgoing, spontaneous, and fun loving. It has also been found that silliness helps reduce stress and contributes toward a more active lifestyle and greater academic success.
For those seeking a relationship, Pennsylvania State University researchers report that playful or silly behavior makes people more attractive to others.
Major corporations are recognizing the benefits of silliness by bringing playfulness into the workplace. Google, Pixar, and Facebook have introduced fun-filled spaces and activities into their office environments.
Life coach and bestselling author Martha Beck claims that the activities that brought us joy as children bring us joy as adults as long as we refrain from telling ourselves: I’m adult now so I shouldn’t be doing this.
It sounds like talking to a speed-monitoring machine or cutting smiley faces in sandwiches (another silly thing I like to do) are not only fun in the moment but also have many long-term benefits. With a little bit of playful thought, I offer these suggestions:
- Take advantage of downtime to daydream, reflect, or decompress to refuel your imagination.
- Generously share your “miles of smiles” with others.
- Try new things and experience the unexpected.
- Cultivate a happy, joyful, positive attitude, full of gratitude for even the smallest, everyday things.
- Schedule “play time” each day whether it is indoor or outdoor, by yourself or with others, quiet or active.
- For those who like to track their success, keep a playfulness journal noting some of your favorite silly moments. Reading thes entries at a later date will give you a good laugh, if nothing else.
- How about starting an online social media page designed to share ideas that ignite playful behavior? Or post something on your own platform for others to comment on the subject.