Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.
— W. H. Auden
A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my car at the traffic lights, deep in thought and paying very little attention to the world around me.
Suddenly I began to awake from my mindless stupor and noticed that the couple in the car next to me were having a rather animated conversation, possibly a family feud or a heated disagreement. The elderly female passenger turned her head my way, threw up her hands, rolled her eyes and uttered a rather choice expletive, one that even my limited lip reading skills could decipher without any difficulty.
We then caught each other’s eyes and began to laugh. Two strangers, no language to connect, just a moment of hilarity and laughter that stayed with me through to my destination. Laughter truly is a tonic for the soul.
Laughter cleans the soul. It has the ability to create an effervescent transformation that is tangible. The pursuit of laughter can dramatically change our lives. Laughter reduces pain, strengthens the immune function, decreases stress, and triggers creativity. Laughing at ourselves prevents us from becoming serious, intolerable, and very self-important pains in the arse.
Did you know that laughter contributes to the lowering of blood pressure, reduces stress hormone levels, improves cardiac health, boosts T cells, triggers the release of endorphins and produces a general sense of well-being? The author of Proverbs suggests that a ‘cheerful or merry’ heart is fabulous medicine (17:22).
Meaningful relationships are far too important to be taken seriously. Laughter improves communication and builds relationship because everyone laughs in the same language. Children are more receptive when they are having fun. Laughter improves all of our memories, because we tend to remember what we laughed about.
Laughter makes us approachable, removes barriers and smoothes over differences.
Humour is vital in delicate circumstances and provides fantastic cover for shooting sacred cows, like Oscar Wilde drily remarked:
“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
Of course, humour that is used to intimidate, manipulate, silence or embarrass another person is not really humour, it’s being a jerk.
So, with countless evidence on the benefits of laughter, how can we introduce more of it into our lives?
– Learn to laugh in the dark and serious times. This is a ‘skill’ I learnt from my parents. They managed to find humour even in the darkest moments. We found ourselves laughing even at the most inappropriate times, not to be inappropriate, but to cope with life. It is a ‘skill’ now developed in my children. An ‘evil’ sense of humour is one of the great weapons against stress.
– Learn to laugh at yourself. To my religious friends out there – please don’t become a serious, pious pain in the bum, so that people think that’s what your faith does to you. It’s not meant to do that. Laughter is a choice. Learning to not take ourselves seriously is tonic for the soul. Serious self-importance really is one of those major relationship killers.
– Watch the kind of comedy shows that make you laugh.
– Tell your face it drastically improves it’s appearance when it smiles. Smiling is so underrated. A smile can literally make someone’s day. It really is an instant makeover for our skull surface.
Friend, I wish you much laughter. Life is not always easy. There are many times when we find ourselves trudging through the valley of tears. Even in those sacred moments, may you notice something ridiculous, throw your head back and laugh in the face of your opposition!