My daughter Addison came home last week from college for a SURPRISE visit. Truth be told her computer died and finals are this week so she needed to borrow another one from home. Thankfully she is only an hour away and she can just jump in the car, and viola! This unexpected visit filled me with joy. When I walked in and saw her beautiful smile I lit up inside. The papers I was supposed to be grading that night quickly became a distant memory. My baby was home… and that was what I would be devoting my time to that night. No one else was home yet so I had her all to myself for a while. Addie and I giggled together as we made dinner. We cuddled on the couch reminiscing and tittering about memories of Christmas past (the tree and decorations are up). We chuckled about odd and funny things that have been happening at school. Delaney arrived home later after work and the house began to fill back up with laughter. That memorable hum, the soundtrack of our home that had been one voice shy, was instantly restored. It became evident that while we had been missing Addie physically, we had also been missing our laugh-track, our giggles, our joy as a family unit. Not completely mind you, but it had been lessened by her void. I realized that we might need to work on getting more of the laughter, and joy back into our smaller family of three in her absence.
I started to ponder the benefits of laughter and searched for quotes, there are so MANY. Some quotes spoke directly to me, as quotes do, while other fell flat.
A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. — …
A good laugh is a mighty good thing, a rather too scarce a good thing. — …
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. — …
A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. —
I started to recall times in my life where laughter helped me to heal; a broken heart, wounded pride, a tense situation, a saddened mood ,a terrified outlook, an injured friend or even a darkened or depressed state. Laughter can be so helpful, though sometimes only a temporary or surface fix. I began to wonder about times in my life when stories or memories echo with laughter, times that have stuck in my mind, that when I recall them I am able to relive the joy and mirth of that moment. Do you know what I mean? Stories that, no matter where you are, if you think of them they bring a smile to you lips, a twinkle to your eye, a warm feeling inside.
This type of memory recall can have a significant effect for lightening moods, especially when shared with others who may have been involved. But how often do we call up a friend, a family member, or reach out to a coworker to share that funny memory? Could the simple action of laughing together help lift the collective mood, to ease tension? The thing is, I have noticed that there is not enough laughter in our world lately and it seems to be affecting us all.
Moreover, brain research tell us that when laughter happens it is like a full-brain workout… cranial aerobics if you will. Laughter stimulates our cerebral cortex both physically and psychologically. Laughter becomes like jumper cables for our brain. While the left side of the brain works to process the verbal content of the joke the analytical right side tries to decipher the essence of the joke… the why of why it is funny, the intellectual connection for the humor. Here is the rub though… we don’t all laugh or find humor and joy in the same things, right? What is hilarious to me is not so funny to others. So laughter can not be “used” in a one-size-fits–all manner. Maybe this is why we see so many people scouring the internet, connected to their phones, searching for GIF’s, meme’s, and YouTube sensations to make them giggle, snort, or guffaw… like junkies people are searching for a quick hit of joy to stabilize their brain.
Without question, there are big, HUGE issues that are causing rage and polarization in our lives. It seems that life can be one big ball of concern, fright, outrage, and depression about the state of things in our nation, state, city, home, school, etc. These feelings often trickle down from a bigger scope, into our hearts and minds, and manifest through our word our actions. What is more frightening is how far the trickle down is reaching, the youngest of children seem to be carrying more burden and sorrow, rage and disconnect. The perpetuation of a culture of hatred and prejudice, anger and division is prevalent in the very young. It is as if we are constantly waiting to hear the next horrible tragedy, horrific decision or the unbelievable policy that has been put into place that lessens control and balance of our reality. This may be why so many people are actively seeking quick-hits of joyful escape.
Within this type of negative culture it sometimes feels difficult to find any joy or laughter unless you are on a constant hunt for it. I have seen my own daughters and their friends sit on their phones or computers for hours looking for things that make them laugh, sharing a snapchat, DM or text. Hell, I have even been known to get sucked into this rabbit hole myself. We reach for instant stimuli, artificial gratification to quickly lighten the mood. Our brains need something to help us recover from the pressure and the insensitivity of the culture surrounding us. Sometimes getting so swallowed up in this state, makes it hard to disengage with the electrical stimulation and re-engaged into the reality. However, making connections with real people, finding humor in daily experiences instead of canned photoshopped, pre-recorded, carefully orchestrated scenarios is so necessary if we want to live together in a kinder, gentler world, right?
How can we change this? What can my part be? How can I make a difference or at least not buy into the doom and gloom mentality all day, everyday? How do I find, light, laughter and joy today? Yes, one way for a quick fix is to head to the internet…there is a lot of funny and good and kind content out there but…. BUT, what if we challenge ourselves to seek out human interaction for stimulating our brains? What if we search for other people who “get” the same kind of jokes to jump-start our brains, together? What if we look for the humanity in everyone we meet, assuming the best intentions in others? What if my pledge is to seek interactions that bring me humor, daily? Hunt for the laughter throughout the day and be grateful for each giggle. Could this search help us fight the imbalance in our lives?
[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. …
I am lucky in my daily work I often get to laugh a lot with children. Most of the time we giggle about silly mistakes that I make. Laughing at myself in front of the kids allows them to see that mistakes are not bad, in fact mistakes can turn into a great laugh, a memory that when we share it again later we all still giggle. In fact, the other day I was teaching a lesson about figurative language, more specifically imagery and boy… did I mess up. While I was reading a mentor text to 47 kids, the books words read, “My pink is like a ballerina’s tutu” however, what I said was, “My pink is like a ballerina’s TATTOO.” Fits of giggles and snickers erupted into a waterfall of laughter… it took me about two seconds and a quick glance to my teaching partner, who was laughing right along with the kiddos, to process what had escaped my mouth. We laughed for a good few minutes. It was hard to pull them all back on track but we did finish the lesson and in the end we all finished with a shared joke and a smile. And this will happen again, no doubt, because when you teach all day sometimes your brain does funny things. I welcome it. Now I have a shared story with 47 kids that will bring laughter and smiles to us all because we were there, we connected, we laughed. It was funny, it lightened the mood!
My favorite quote about laughter comes from the play Steel Magnolias;
“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” -by Robert Harling
So find the love, kindness and joy in others. Laugh it up, search for mirth, tee-hee and titter at silliness, call a friend and share a memory that makes you smile, or find something that makes you laugh so hard you may just pee a little in your pants! Because guess what… we can all laugh at that, am I right?
The search may be like like looking for hidden treasure, seemingly impossible and hidden well. Or it may be as simple as a shared glance at someone, a knowing look with someone that always makes you snicker. Whatever it is … just do it, do it NOW! Find the funny and share it with someone. Look everywhere for things that make you laugh. Focus and listen for the chuckles and chortles, the sounds of laughter and stories, the commonality in us all that reminds us that we are more alike than different. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Hit the refresh button on all that is still good in our world. Find the jumper cables of laughter for your brain and start that engine! I have found the quickest way to feeling better is the joy I find laughter…