We all want that one magic key to make life as joyful and easy as possible. My goal with clients is to help them move forward now and to leave them with tools that are useful for the rest of their lives. There are many such tools that are universal, some of which are in previous posts to this blog. But is there one tool that supersedes all others? Yes. This one tool is... [drum roll] LAUGH! That's right, you read this correctly. As with your multi-vitamin, you should laugh at least once each day. Unlike your multi-vitamin, there is no upper limit on the dose. Regardless of how awful your day is, or how challenging the period of your life, you need to laugh at something.
Scientists and researchers tell us that laughing changes our brain chemistry, enhancing those feel-good chemicals. There are doctors and therapists who prescribe watching sitcoms to patients to help improve their underlying mood.
I am fortunate to come from a very funny family. My two brothers and sister are among the funniest people I know. As our family has grown to include in-laws, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the humor likewise expanded. We are a very diverse family, but we all share the love of a good laugh.
Humor has gotten my family through some very difficult times. Without question, one of the worst periods for my family was the seven weeks my father was in a coma before he died. Just seeing my father in this condition was difficult enough, but the daily medical decisions we had to make only aggravated our despair. There was nothing funny about this situation.
Along with the tears--and there were plenty of them--were many, many laughs. We laughed over silly things. We laughed because we were so tired. We laughed over stories about my father. And finally, we laughed over the bizarre situation we were in. Up to this day, we are sure the chauffeur of the limousine who took us to our father's funeral is still telling stories about the awful children who sat in that automobile and laughed all the way to the cemetery.
The humor kept us sane and allowed us to get through each day. My brain chemistry was apparently producing enough feel-good chemicals to get through my eulogy without crying. No doubt people saw us as strong and stoic. Of course, they never saw us in our private moments, such as when I went to the cemetery by myself five days after the funeral. My crying turned into sobs, and I saw no end in sight. There was no humor at that moment. But the humor before that moment cradled me and the humor since then has eased the pain.
Try it. Find the absurdity in your situation, no matter how difficult. Can't find it? Turn on your TV and watch a sitcom or two. Rent a funny movie from the video store. Laughing isn't a panacea, but it just may be the most important tool in your bag.