Serious times call for serious measures – such as drawing smiley faces on fruit – and what’s more, the science proves it By the fifth week of lockdown, I had mastered the art of silliness. My flatmates and I had drawn smiley faces on fruit, stuck googly eyes on vegetables and dressed up as our favourite pop stars. On social media I noticed similar responses to the “unprecedented” times we found ourselves in: parents jumping in on their children’s TikTok dance challenges, people dressing up in black tie or costumes to take out the bins. I’d chalked it up as cabin fever, but even in this more relaxed phase of lockdown, with some of our pre-pandemic pastimes back on the agenda (albeit in adapted form), the spirit of silliness endures in my flat. It turns out that playfulness is, in fact, a distinct personality trait, like extroversion or conscientiousness – and those who possess it in adulthood may be more resilient. In this strange in-between time, half in, half out of lockdown, I now realise that cultivating a sense of the absurd might be crucial to weathering the uncertainty of the weeks and months to come. Silliness does not have to deny the gravity of the situation – but it can help you get through it.
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