(First published, August 2003)
Here's a short activity to increase participant's ability to find humor in ordinary, everyday events.
The best way to describe this activity is to provide a “transcript” of how I conduct this activity. You can adapt it to fit your personal style.
Part 1. Rounding up circular objects
Quick, look around you and count the number of circular objects. Count as many as you can within the next 20 seconds.
(Pause for 20 seconds.)
How many circular objects did you find? Actually, the exact number doesn't matter. The point I am trying to get across is that you did not create these circular objects. They already existed in your current landscape and you just found them. You simply chose to notice them and focus your attention on them.
By the way, did you “cheat” while performing the task? For example, did you include parts of noncircular objects that were circular as in the case of a circular knob in a rectangular radio? Did you count the same object twice as in the case of a round CD and a round hole in the middle of the CD? Did you treat an oval as a circle as in the case of the buttons on your telephone dial? Did you count multiple occurrences of the same object as in the case of all of the periods in a printed document? No, you were not cheating. You were just operating at at a higher level of vigilance.
Part 2. Laughing at Life
Let's now move on to the second part of the exercise. The circle exercise involved scanning your present landscape for a tangible physical element. The next exercise involves scanning your past timescape for an intangible conceptual element.
Here's how you do it. Close your eyes and think of everything that happened in your life last week. Count the number of funny things that happened. Choose to find funny things that already existed in your timescape during the last week. Be creative in coming up with laughable events. Pretend that you have a remarkable sense of humor and look at your life for comedy materials. Do some creative cheating and put a comic spin on your recent reality. Spend 30 seconds doing this.
(Pause for 30 seconds.)
Now focus on one of the funniest episode from your recall exercise. Make it funnier through creative editing, exaggeration, and distortion. Keep working on it until it becomes so funny that you have to burst out laughing. You have another 30 seconds for this exercise.
(Pause for 30 seconds.)
Now pair up with someone else and share the funny segment of your life. Be sure to laugh uproariously at your partner's story.
(Pause for 2-4 minutes. Roam around the room eavesdropping on different conversations.)