If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. –Erma Bombeck
One of my favorite Biblical quotes is “A merry heart doeth good like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). I have discovered it is true. Laughing with my friends, at the antics of my pets, or even at myself, has proven to be my best antidote for stress.
Someone once told me that the mere act of smiling makes you feel better. Try it right now. Take a deep breath. Now smile, sincerely. How do you feel?
Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness, the superb book on humor therapy, said, “Laughter is a powerful way to tap positive emotions.” Comedian Bill Cosby says, “You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.”
My journey from the corporate world to caregiving, chronicled in my book, The Heart Way, was filled with humor and laughter. In the worst of times, I found solace through laughing at myself or my response to something awful that was happening. When I could find and then share the humor in a painful situation with friends, it was easier to move through it. And right now I am thinking about the time I had to help a nurse give my mother an enema in the hospital ER. I was the one who had to deal with getting her onto the bedpan. OMG! That was a very bad day to “move through,” to be “punny!” Later, Mom and I would laugh our butts off, remembering that terrible experience.
I do not advocate humor as a way to bypass or suppress the experience of feeling pain, sadness and grief. But laughter is a wonderful coping tool in our toolbox for dealing with suffering. It’s a great way to release tension in our bodies and diffuse anxiety. Since the publication of Cousins’ book in 1964, interest in the effects of humor on patients with serious diseases has grown to the point of spawning a new medical field – psycho-neuro immunology (PIN) which studies how the brain and immune system interact. Researchers have discovered that laughter has all kinds of positive effects on the body, from lowering blood pressure to boosting the immune function. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, producing a sense of peace and well-being.
Life does not cease to be serious when we laugh. We do not go instantly from tragedy and grief to joy. We experience a healing process that involves a wide range of emotions including joy, if we are lucky.
When my first husband died in 1995, I was consumed with sadness and grief. For weeks after his funeral, I would cry in my car where no one could hear me. Or so I thought. One day while driving down the mountain from my home in Conifer, Colorado to my office in Denver, I was having my morning cry. Suddenly a huge splash of bird poop landed on my windshield, probably from a magpie. The splat was at least 12 inches in diameter. Blinded by my tears and bird doo, I pulled over to the side of the road. As I grabbed a paper towel and my scraper from the back of my Jeep, I began laughing so hard I had to lean against the car. The bird’s timing couldn’t have been any better. It was as if my late husband was trying to tell me to brighten up and I felt great for the rest of that day, recounting the story to my coworkers.
People who feel stressed at work find it hard to express or experience joy on the job. Difficult times are when laughter could be the only way to help employees get their energy and enthusiasm back up where it belongs. Is it any wonder that Internet jokes and funny YouTube videos circulate more frequently during the toughest times at work? While caregiving, I found comfort in watching silly pet videos or “America’s Funniest Videos” before turning in for the night. I do the same thing now when I am in the midst of any kind of personal or professional challenge. When I hit a rough patch in my own life a couple of years ago, I wrote “The Boomer Can Can,” still making people giggle on YouTube (click and check it out)! Humor is indeed good medicine.
People are drawn to people who make them laugh or who can laugh with them. Humor is an instant way to harness positive thoughts and release negative feelings. As such, it’s an important element in taking care of yourself and others.
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Please join this conversation and share an experience of the healing power of humor….