At our Sunday virtual support gathering that I host weekly, we explored laughter.
Science has shown that laughter is very beneficial, especially during times of stress and strife. One might imagine that could apply right now for many of us.
The Mayo clinic reports that laughter has physical benefits as well as emotional ones. It can stimulate organs and muscles, help with your heart rate and blood pressure, can increase circulation and relax your whole body. It can improve your immune system, relieve pain, help you gain perspective and deal with difficult situations, and lighten chronic depression. Any kind of laughter is helpful, from a giggle to a guffaw.
Laughing until you hurt, uninhibited and free, with tears pouring down your face can be the very best medicine in dark times.
During our gathering we examined what makes us laugh. We each had such different answers, sometimes related to our culture, family, or Enneagram point of view. And yet we were pretty much unanimous that laughter was a great release.
Laughter helps in embarrassing moments to claim our foolishness and laugh about our mistakes or missteps, rather than hide or be defensive about them. I see this in my work with clients. It is profound. It leaves a deep imprint on a cellular level. I hope we can laugh as hard as we cry together.
Our group realized that we like to make other people laugh too and that it creates a strong connection.
“Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.“— John Cleese
When we can laugh at ourself or our predicament, “Laughter is a sense of proportion and a power of seeing yourself from the outside.”— Zero Mostel
During our times of greatest suffering, when we can laugh through our tears, when we can meet tragedy with bittersweet and unrestrained hilarity, the sobs of awareness can heal and help us survive. Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said: “ I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable.”
So how can we make laughter a priority each day?
We just commit to it.
There are even laughing yoga classes. Stretch yourself in more than one way.
We put laughter in our calendars.
We find a laughter buddy pronto!
We dress up really silly or do something outrageous…just because.
We get a great book of humor or jokes and share it with someone we know. It is even funny to laugh at how bad a joke is. I have a great friend from college who tells me jokes. When we call each other we create an intentional container of laughter.
You can watch funny youtube videos, and not stop at a private smile. Go for it. Release. Laugh. Watch comedic movies and shows instead of other darker choices. Choose to laugh!!!
I know that when laughter disappears from an important relationship, so does real depth. They go hand in hand. Try to find it again. Be intentional about it. Make a laughing date.
“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.“— Buddha
I know it is hard to see perfection these days. We don’t have the long view. We are in our discomforts and our challenges. Some of us are struggling with many things. And yet, for just a moment, we can try to tap into a different way of seeing our human condition, even in its absurdity. Our laughter need not be made of disdain or desperation; our laughter can hold truly heartfelt compassion. Give it a try.