When last did you last laugh until your stomach hurt?
The impact of having had to endure two and a half years of lockdown due to COVID-19 still lingers. Unsurprisingly, individual wellbeing is now firmly on top of the mental health agenda.
Taking care of the human mind not only helps maintain good health, but also keeps us happy, makes us feel in control and ensures we have the tools and support to overcome any daily challenges.
Leading South African mentalist Larry Soffer has performed for Beyoncé, made the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria disappear and counts Prince Harry as one of his biggest fans.
Soffer explains that many South Africans struggled with mental health during and after lockdown. People had to find new ways to entertain themselves, especially after the lure of Netflix wore off.
“I saw so many of my friends and family start baking banana breads, take up gardening, or start a new hobby like making jewellery or creating pottery. A few have since turned these side hustles into profitable businesses which is just amazing,” he laughs.
Now that everything is back to normal, it is important to make time for the fun things in life again. Even at a time when many South Africans are tightening their financial purse strings, due to the escalating cost of living crisis, the important role the entertainment industry can play in helping improve and support mental health and wellbeing cannot be overlooked.
“Entertainment, especially live entertainment, is the ultimate feel-good factor and the perfect way of escaping from our everyday routines. It is also about sharing elements of fun and lightness and emotional connection with a room full of others,” he adds.
Laughter comes in many forms, and is an absolute must for continued good mental health. Make time for fun, be it live shows, a good comedic movie or just a games night with friends.
Here’s why it’s so important, according to Soffer:
We can trace entertainment back to the first and second centuries where hand puppets, storytelling, music and dance was very much a part of the social fabric of society. Entertainment has always been a part of who we are as humans, Larry says it is because we desire fun and laughter in our lives.
And, being entertained delivers this in truckloads! You only need to look at a young infant to see what I mean. They get so much joy from simply watching a cartoon on TV, playing peek-a-boo with an adult or even from seeing their own reflection in the mirror. It’s all entertainment for them and it can bring them hours of fun and laughter.
We get so consumed by everyday stressors that we long for those small moments or activities that relieve us from that. For some, it helps to spend time in the gym while others might want to be outside at one with nature. Entertainment is different though as it has the possibility to transport us out of our everyday mundane lives and into a world where we can experience magic and mystery, and where we can believe in the impossible.
From comedians, singers and ventriloquists to dancers, musicians, and magicians, pretty much all artists had some form of online offering during the lockdown. Some were conducted in their living rooms, others on balconies or gardens, but all happened because as entertainers, we understand the need to spread joy and positivity during very difficult times.
This is the determined spirit of an artist – they simply cannot be stopped and will always find a way to express their craft. I know I absolutely loved entertaining during the lockdown, seeing packed out living rooms full of family and friends all desperate for some respite from the worry and doom.
How many of us live for the weekend, so that we can plan something fun, different, and exciting over our two free days? We do it, because we get so much positive energy from a good experience or from being with good people.
If you’re feeling happy and positive, you’re likely to radiate and transfer these happy feelings to someone else – like a domino effect, which is a great way of elevating everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.