I love a good comedy. I love observational comedy the most and people like Dylan Moran, Des Bishop and Dara O'Briain make it seem really easy but at the same time are really clever in the way they put together their material. I watch comedy when I am down and as a way of coping and seeing the silver lining in things all the time. I love the IT crowd and Father Ted and also some dark humour like Black Books - all of which are written by the same author - Graham Linehan.
These are a way that I usually laugh once a day and they do say laughter is the best medicine. I do know babies laugh far more than adults but they haven't lived through or carry with them the sense of cynicism that we adopt throughout life. They are free to laugh at the most minor and subtle things and giggle at whatever they please. My Father - who is 90 - maintains that we should see everything as if it was for the first time to keep it fresh and have a sense of wonder and astonishment with the world and I think he is right. I do carry a sense of curiosity with me and amazement of most things that are new.
In college I had the privilege of participating in laughter yoga. It was an experiment that was open to all PhD students. I went to the laughter yoga with an open mind and participated in the brain study. It was, in fact, hilarious. We were in a room and she gave us exercises to do and we had to fill out forms etc. I won't go into detail but we laughed and before I went back to the PhD room I was lighter. The world had lifted off my shoulders and I saw the study a little differently. Criticism is good for improving and trusting your supervisor is also key in order to develop your study and I believe this laughter throughout the day helped.
I do have a tendency to seek out funny videos when I am going through something traumatic. I tend to bury my head and focus on the funny videos and while the world might be crashing down around me I will laugh at the absurdity that the comedian is explaining and transpose that to real life. In some ways this can be a bad thing as people misunderstand my comedic nature for not taking things seriously but, in fact, it is my way of coping. While I can't address the pain that I am enduring at the time I laugh about something that is not real in order to cope with the overwhelm of my emotions. Privately this has allowed me to manage well in times of stress, however, when someone sees this and questions it, it can dismantle the fabric of my being and I am lost without my coping mechanism. I have now built other strategies and do not need to rely on this as much, however, it was a key strategy for me for coping and we all need good strategies.
When I was younger my other strategy was playing computer games, I would sit for hours distracting myself from whatever was around me and focus solely on playing a game. It could be TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) or old games that my sisters had available like Terminator 2 on the Commodore 64. I have a penchant for classic computer games since! The time can pass by like minutes and I am in what is known as 'flow' - a concept widely written in academia by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The description of which entails the warping of time, where a person is fully immersed in their experience and energised afterwards. It is a case that the person is fully engaged and while, for me, it is a coping strategy and the world around me might be falling apart, I am 'distracted' by the engagement of the computer game.
We know now that there is an immersive element to computer games and studies have been completed on this - see my PhD for references! Computer games can improve concentration and allow for users to fully engage with their experience. For me, computer games can act as a way of coping. They can fully distract and fully engage me in something else at the same time. At the moment, we are facing a time of crisis where we are all at home and seeking ways of coping in this troubling time and while I have distracted myself with other activities like reading, making videos for my YouTube channel - Learn Computers with Ali - I find myself missing the one element that I went to quite often before I did research in computer games and that is gaming.
'Steam' is offering more free games and while during the week I am busy with work, it is the free time that I have at the weekend that I can fully engage and fall into a different world, a world free from the horrible news of deaths from the virus sweeping across the world. I used to be too busy for computer games holding down usually several jobs, studying, teaching, supervising students and training for marathons and now I find myself innovating and looking at my time as a way that I can spend being kind to myself and enjoying the 'flow' state that computer games present. The 'Houseparty' app allows people to share their experience for mobile games and 'TeamSpeak' allows sharing on a computer so it doesn't necessarily need to be a solitary activity. You can engage with computer games as a team activity.
So I will leave you with this, I will go watch some comedy to cope and play some computer games and I will leave judgement at the door while I distract myself for a few hours from the world around me. I will enjoy every minute of it and fully immerse myself in an 'out of this world' experience and laugh about the absurdity of some real-life mundane situations. While these might seem inappropriate in some instances, I am all too aware of the reality of the situation and its seriousness. However, in these times we also need to look after our own mental health so we can come back energised and that is what 'flow' does. It re-energises a person so they are ready for more - as long as they meet the 'flow' state requirements though and start off small - something not too challenging and yet enjoyable.
Mihaly Csikszentmihályi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-06-016253-5.
See PhD for list of references or contact me for a list regarding flow state and computer games.
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