A Good Laugh Helps us Face Our Problems with Renewed Energy and Courage © 2004
by Cathy Fenwick
A healthy sense of humour has long been recognized as an indicator of mental health and maturity. Our ability to feel joy helps us to see the beauty beyond the hardships. Our pain or suffering may not be gone, but the world beyond the suffering may feel different.
At some point the balance shifts, from holding on to what
has been lost — to finding ways of letting go. We may be able to gain a sense of meaning in the loss and the suffering. Giving it some purpose or meaning can lead to acceptance and inner peace. Joy, beauty, and laughter build bridges of trust and help us maintain a sense of hopefulness, however changing its focus might be.
Most of us experience humour as an integral part of our
lives. I believe that natural moments of shared humour and
laughter can occur during even the last stage of life, just
as it does in the other stages. A healthy sense of humour
increases self-awareness and gives us a sense of control
in what could be overwhelming situations.
Humour and laughter help to alleviate fear and protect us against personal vulnerability. Physical benefits include relaxation, better blood circulation and oxygenation, and production of beneficial body chemicals such as endorphins. It is a natural antidote for stress. A good laugh helps us to face our problems with renewed energy and courage. Healthy laughter helps us to feel better and connect with our spiritual source. Laughter mediates despair and engenders hope, enhances our sense of human connection, and gives us a perspective on this life and a connection to a higher order of being.
While humour and laughter have many benefits, we should not assume that it is always welcome or appropriate. During times of medical, emotional, or spiritual crises, humour could be harmful. Sensitivity, intuition, and rapport are crucial to appropriate use of humour. Receptivity, timing, and
content are important in
deciding when and if to initiate
laughter. The best humour is
spontaneous and meaningful
in the moment. A good rule of
thumb is to take cues from the
other, watch for opportunities
to bring light-heartedness to the
situation. With loving care and
sensitivity, laughter can happen
anywhere at any time.
Healthy humour comes from a position of love and support. Introducing humour into a sensitive situation should be done slowly, sensitively and with patience, taking cues from the other.
We need to develop our own humour skills in order to be ready when the right time is presented. It's like tossing a humour line to see if the other person will bite, toss the line and reel it in, toss it again. If humour is appropriate to the situation, the other will respond to it. If they do not respond, then this is not the right time. I used this technique often during my own Chemo-therapy treatments for cancer. Many times people responded with enthusiasm for the opportunity to reduce tension by finding reasons to laugh, other times they did not.
One day I said, with a silly expression, to the woman sitting next to me, "All things considered, I'd really rather be someplace else!"
She responded, "Oh, I'm just glad I have a treatable cancer," thus went our conversation. A couple of treatments later, I tried again and we both shared funny stories.
For me healthy humour is more about sharing uplifting stories, than about telling jokes. To increase your use of humour in any setting, the best place to start is with yourself. In order to share joy, you first need to be able to experience joy. Experiencing joy is a benefit of living life with enthusiasm, seeing the beauty that is all around and being thankful for what is.
Just for today, do not take for granted the miracle that is life. Take time to play. Take time to connect with a friend. Take time to do the things that matter most. Take a moment to listen to a baby's belly laugh. Let that sound melt into your being. Become one with the laughter. Take time to love and to laugh.
A healthy sense of humour increses self-awareness and gives
us a sense of control
in what could be overwhelming situations.
Every day is precious. I don't want to waste any of it. Imagine what life would be if we walked in beauty and gratitude. Imagine how the forces of wonder and joy could change life from a place of disharmony and distress to one of harmony and peace. Joy is living right now in full awareness of my body, mind, and soul. Excerpted from Cathy Fenwick's new book, Love
and Laughter: A Healing Journey ©2004.
Cathy Fenwick is an author, educator, and therapist. She develops and presents workshops on how to get more healthy humour into your life, as well as retreats for healing. Her books include: Love and Laughter: A Healing Journey (2004), Telling My Sister's Story (1996), and Healing With Humour (1995). You can check out Cathy's website at www.healingwithhumour.com.