The last laugh: Be more Poppins

As we start another year of challenges Stephanie Davies encourages us to be more like Mary Poppins and embrace playful imagination to keep our creativity and sense of fun fully engaged.

Traditionally, January is a time of new beginnings when we lock away the booze, join a gym and give up bacon sarnies. It’s a time when people set their intent for the year, commit to get fit and deny themselves pleasures of the flesh – mainly the pig, cow and chicken flesh.

It’s no coincidence then, that January is also widely accepted to be the most miserable month of the year – but we all do the resolution thing anyway. And in normal years that’s okay, because giving up gin and going to the gym never harmed anyone.

It’s also easy to punch through a month of denial when you know that come February, you can celebrate with the mother-of-all Prosecco binges. It’s even worth suffering vegan cheese (ingredients: fermented tears, toe-jam, worm casts) when you know there’s a juicy beef fillet waiting on the other side, or a Big Mac.

Professionally, playfulness and imagination are prized qualities. And if they are not, they should be, because they lead to creativity and innovation

This year, however, things are slightly different. The denial bit of the New Year experience has already been sorted, thanks to lockdown. Itt’s a grim month for millions of us, no matter what. And unfortunately, it will not just be January. We are in for a bumpy few months, so to deny the small pleasures we can have seems to me to be masochistic in the extreme.

Obviously, I’m not advocating a month-long blow out of boozy days on the sofa watching box sets and eating processed meat. Of course, you should moderate your alcohol intake, eat healthily and exercise. Given the health emergency we are in, it is imperative to stay fit and healthy.

But I do think that this year at least we can allow ourselves a little wiggle room when it comes to acts of self-sacrificing deprivation.

But the start of a New Year is still a symbolic time to set intentions for the months ahead, so what to do? My suggestion is to commit to be more Poppins. Allow me to explain.

Every New Year I have a ritual. I watch Mary Poppins. This is partly because I grew up on the Isle of Man where the belief in fairies and magic is enshrined in the constitution and taught in Secondary Schools (you can do a GSCE in it), and partly because there is a message buried in the film that we could all learn from.


It’s also because I have a thing for dancing penguins and soot-smeared men with dodgy cockney accents, but we will ignore that.

What Mary Poppins teaches us is that as adults, we tend to lose our sense of playfulness and imagination, two things that arguably we need more than ever in these times. She also teaches us that you should never say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious when suffering with halitosis, although that is less relevant at present.

Professionally, playfulness and imagination are prized qualities. And if they are not, they should be, because they lead to creativity and innovation. They also help to develop and sustain wellbeing and happiness.

The world of work is currently in crisis mode for many of us. We are doing whatever we can to get to the end of the tunnel. But even when we get there, what awaits on the other side will be different to that which came before.

Workplaces will be disrupted, and people will have to adapt to new ways of working. In order to do that effectively and successfully, we will need imagination, creativity and a sense of fun. Anything that helps promote these qualities should be embraced. Which is why I would prescribe a healthy dose of Mary Poppins. Spit spot.


About the author

Stephanie Davies is the founder of Laughology.


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