“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”― Victor Hugo
When I was in college, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was taking a health class at the time, and I chose to write a paper about the disease for one of our assignments in hopes of finding some piece of information that would reverse her sad diagnosis, or at least make her life more pleasant.
When my daddy was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I searched every book I could find for anything that would be a surprise answer for helping him heal, or at least for lessening the sting of the disease. I found in my investigations something that has stayed with me in my own health journey.
Everything I have found in my studies has convinced me that what happens in our head affects our entire body. I learned it when I researched about my father, I learned it from an incident with my grandmother when she burst into laughter as we walked down a sidewalk, and I’ve learned it in research for my own health: Laughter is one of the greatest keys to a better life.
Does something have to be funny to make you laugh? I am proof that it does not.
I burst into laughter as I sat on the front row of my grandpa’s funeral when I was eight. I was horrified at my own laughter in a most inappropriate setting.
I fell into laughter as a newlywed when I rounded a corner to see my husband had stepped on the lip of a refrigerator cart and had been knocked to the floor. I was shocked at my emotion that usually would have been expressed in tears.
Multitudes of people have had similar experiences of laughing when they would have preferred not to do so, feeling it was somehow disrespectful. There are plenty of parents and teachers who have been angered by a child who has laughed in a serious situation. The truth is, laughter is simply a normal reaction to stressful situations, much as tears might be.
“…some psychologists classify humor as one of the “mature” defense mechanisms we invoke to guard ourselves against overwhelming anxiety…Being able to laugh at traumatic events in our own lives doesn’t cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them.” —Psychology Today.
Victor Hugo must have lived through a few gray wintry days like we have had recently to have fully appreciated the words he penned, for it is in the hopes of pulling us out of the doldrums many are feeling that I share my “medical advice.” You could go back to Lord Byron, who lived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s for similar thinking.
“Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.”― George Gordon Byron
Life is sometimes too serious, and laughter is just the thing to let the steam out of the pressure cooker in which we often find ourselves. Children, unafraid of appearing undignified, laugh in delight, and it might be just what you need to lighten your spirit and remind you that age is just a number. We were designed to laugh, and no matter when we laugh, it is good for our soul. If better health doesn’t interest you, maybe knowing that a study at Vanderbilt showed you can burn 40 calories by laughing for 10-15 minutes will interest you. Laughter is good medicine. Children know it and research shows it.
Humor, it seems, is also important to your success in work. Humor that is funny, not offensive or sarcastic, puts those around you at ease, makes you more approachable, and makes work a more pleasant place for everyone to be — all of which mean a more successful company. Think I made it up? Look at Southwest Airlines–it’s actually on their job application, “Have you ever used humor to solve a workplace problem?” It matters to them. My favorite flight attendant joke: “They told everyone on the plane’s left side, toward the terminal, to put their faces in the window and smile ‘so our competitors can see what a full flight looks like.’ ”
Laughter, funny or not, has been deemed good and necessary. There are even laughing groups across the country where people can let loose and laugh for no particular reason. Heck, you might even decide to start your own laughing community where you live.
Are you sitting near other people right now? Have them join you in a little experiment. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale say “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha” five times. Did you laugh? If you are still feeling serious, do it again and this time smile with your mouth and your eyes as you “Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha” five times. If you still aren’t laughing, you might need to rent a funny movie.
There are still bills to pay, clothes to wash, people to feed, projects to complete, and experiences to be lived, but with a new spring in your step, and an attitude others can enjoy, maybe you’ll see the value of adding a little laughter to your life every day.
Laughter serves as a blocking agent. Like a bullet – proof vest, it may help protect you against the ravages of negative emotions that can assault you in disease. — Norman Cousins