“What do the simple folk do, to help them escape when they’re blue”, sang the King in the Broadway musical, Camelot. He felt someone had the secret, but he did not.
It’s difficult to force yourself to laugh, and annoying if someone else urges you to do so when you don’t feel like it. But developing strategies to bring genuine laughter into your life can be an important part of stress management. Not only do your feelings improve; you health does, too, and your problem-solving abilities take a big step forward.
When we feel good, we laugh easily, so we associate laughing with something you only do when you feel good. But laughter has healing powers, as Norman Cousins discovered when, faced with debilitating illness in 1964, he checked into a hotel room and watched Marx Brothers movies, laughing himself well. He later described his experience in “Anatomy of an Illness.”
Since then, research in psychchoneuroimmunology (the field that studies the relationship between the mind and the body) supports what he found: laughter can heal illness that has already commenced. It can also prevent illness.
Researchers claim that the average person laughs between 14 and 17 times per day.
Chronically ill patients, such as cardiac patients, on the other hand, laugh much less than that.
It isn’t always appropriate to laugh. If you’ve had a severe blow or loss, it may be important to take the time to reflect and explore the pain. But when the sharp pain dulls, that’s definitely the time to find laughter. Sometimes dullness of spirit isn’t preceded by sharp pain; it just develops slowly. This dullness can be the result of an overly-long winter or an anxiety-laden workload that seems to go on and on without a relaxing break.
It’s important to have methods to lighten up when the world goes gray.
My favorite remedy is a raggedy folder of clippings I have been collecting for almost two decades. Filled with clippings, it contains single cartoons, entire comic strips, written jokes, and short humorous essays that have delighted me over the years. Humorous Birthday and Christmas cards that people have sent me over the years are included.
When I open the file, I find that the first few items I pick up make me smile. As I continue leafing through the file, being bombarded by widely different humorous items, I may start to giggle. If I keep looking, I usually reach a point where I am laughing so hard that tears start to roll down my cheeks.
Some of my favorite excerpts from student papers that I file in the “Mangled History” section are as follows:
“Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire at night”
“Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks.””
“The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple;
the seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.”
Two pages of this stuff (I didn’t make it up) can lead to hysteria – the good kind.
The best “cure” for “lack of laughing” seems to be something that is readily available and that doesn’t take a great deal of concentration or time commitment. That’s why my humor file works so well: I can pull it out and leaf through for as long as I like. If I’m interrupted, I can open it again at any point, without having to ask myself, “Now, where was I?”
Here are some other ways to get a laugh. You’ve always known about these sources, but have you bookmarked them in some way so that they are easily available when your spirits need a lift?
Music: choose some music that is upbeat and has funny lyrics. Choosing music that has a beat that makes you want to dance is even better.
Videos: You don’t need a file of Marx Brothers films; you can find a multitude on YouTube. Here’s one of my favorites. It has the same characteristics as my humor file, consisting of short clips of people being funny doing unplanned tricks on trampolines. A few animals participate, too. You can watch as much or as little as you want at one time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AvRTS7Kt-k
Try some of these methods, and laugh to your heart’s content.
Question: What is your strategy for laughing, or at least lightening up, when you feel dull? Is there a particular film, song, book you turn to? Do you have a favorite pun or joke? Share your “Wit Wisdom” with me. I’ll include it in my blog so that we all can benefit.