Laughing is Good for You

laughter, joy

Do you like to laugh?

How do you do it? Are you one who likes to giggle, guffaw, snort… or do you smile quietly when something tickles your fancy?

I’ve been thinking about the importance of a good laugh lately. At times, I take humor for granted but now it’s becoming clearer just how necessary laughing is for my wellbeing…and the wellbeing of my loved ones.

Laughter releases tension, fear, and anxiety that weigh us down. It forms momentary time capsules of joy that bubble up from our center and burst effortlessly from our lips.

Who can you count on for a good laugh?

My mom and I like to giggle together. She’s almost 87 years old and I’ve noticed that her love of laugher increases with each passing year. She laughs more at herself than ever before…and I often find myself laughing with her. Whether it’s over something she can’t remember (like mixing up the names of all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren) or something she can’t do anymore – like climb into a SUV and sit down gracefully in one fell swoop. Laughing at herself seems to make aging less stressful.

Don’t get me wrong, Mom has a positive, ‘can-do’ attitude which hasn’t diminished as she ages. On a recent vacation to the lake she was determined to participate in all activities as fully as possible. Even though it was challenging, she walked the bouncy dock (with some assistance) to board our pontoon boat each day. Swimming and tubing on the lake makes boaters hungry so we would often stop for a treat of delicious homemade ice cream at the Lakeside Creamery.

The floating dock below the creamery is in cross currents that make it especially bouncy. I wasn’t sure if Mom could successfully navigate this dock even with help.  She was determined to have fun (and ice cream) so Mom linked arms with my fiancé Greg and I. With us on either side of her we carefully made our way down the dock to the base of the wooden steps that led up the hillside to our frozen treats. We must have looked like three drunken sailors as we staggered this way and that way down the dock! It was a little scary but more than anything it was adventurous and fun. We laughed in joy fully appreciating that we were in it together, living, loving, and laughing our way forward. My Mom models for me and many what it’s like to age gracefully, as well as the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Who do you know that laughs at herself (or himself) often?

Who reminds you to lighten up and not be too serious?

I’m especially aware of laughter’s value this week as a beloved family member faces a serious health diagnosis. It may seem odd to talk of laughter in the midst of a trial; however, I’m struck by just how important humor is in this sobering time. It offers a counter-balance to the understandable anxiety and fear that comes with uncertainty.

Our family, like many, loves to laugh together. As we recall memories and retell favorite stories we connect yet again with one another and deepen our bonds. Telling jokes, laughing at our own antics, and being downright silly, lightens the load, even if just for a moment.

In addition to recalling fond memories we are intentionally creating new ones each day. So while we await more test results we spend precious time together. Quality time is one of the 5 love languages and tops my list. I value it more than ever in the face of this diagnosis. To me, quality time means savoring opportunities to give hugs, to talk, smile, pray, and laugh; to enjoy one another in the simple activities of life shared together.

The source of our amusement may be the antics of small children, the family dogs, or even something as mundane as the weather. Unexpected joy bubbles up when we get soaked in a surprise rainstorm, see a rainbow after that storm, or leisurely enjoy a nourishing meal and conversation. Ultimately, it’s just about being together.

Being ‘in the moment’ can be challenging on a typical day and even more so during fearful times. Anxiety can send us into ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode. In these times, I find it helpful to remember that light-heartedness is a tension-reliever and can offer an element of hope. If we can still laugh, then life must still be good on some level…even when the news we face is scary and frightful.

Balance is a choice.  I remind myself to counter-balance fear with love… sad with happy…tears with laughter. When I feel that life is spinning out of control, I turn to prayers that stretch out beyond me to a God that I believe knows all…and is working for good in all circumstances.

How will you balance the moments you’re given today?

Whatever this day brings, I encourage you to take time to laugh…whether you throw your head back with a great ‘HaHaHa’ or quietly giggle to yourself…savor the feeling. Remember how precious the gift of joy is each day.

Then, after you’ve savored it…spread it to around; be a source of joy for others. I invite you to join me in being a source of love and laughter!