Much of the healing I’ve experienced in my life, has come from laughter. We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine and there are a wealth of documented stories of how laughing has had the incredible power to heal. Dr. Norman Cousins is perhaps laughter’s most well-known advocate, writing about it in his classic book Anatomy of an Illness.
After being told he had a life threatening illness with little chance of recovery, he created his own healing programme, incorporating large doses of Vitamin C with daily bouts of laughter, compliments of old Marx Brothers movies. For me as well, I truly believe that my sense of humour (albeit rather off-beat or quirky at times) just might have saved my life. And more than once.
My Father the Storyteller
As I’ve written about in my piece Lessons My Father Taught Me, my father Louis was an enormously gifted storyteller. He had a magical ability to combine tone, impeccable timing and expression, with his rich sense of detail, allowing him to re-tell long and involved comedic pieces. He’d immediately capture the attention of those listening and had them laughing hysterically by the end of each one of his stories.
Although generally a quiet and gentle man, he had a great sense of humour and really came alive when telling stories. A favourite of his was Myron Cohen, a popular storyteller comedian of the day.
My mother Lil has a great sense of humour, but on her own, she isn’t really funny. She’s the kind of listener that my father and I need because they bring laughter to the equation. I’m sure her success at aging gracefully is due in large part to her ability to laugh and often.
Inheriting a Sense of Humour
I’d like to believe I’ve inherited some of my father’s storytelling abilities and sense of humour. For me, the juice, the meat of life is in the stories. People remember stories much more vividly than they remember facts according to Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future. My stories are simply my personal way of looking at life, observing the world around me and seeing both the idiosyncrasies and absurdities, yet the connectedness we share as human beings.
These are the kind of comedians or storytellers I’ve always been drawn to as well. Those who use humour to expose the human condition through their incredible use of language. George Carlin is an all-time favorite of mine. Carlin was a brilliant wordsmith. Chris Rock — I adore him, too. Both observe the world and dare to talk about often taboo topics, like sex, politics, religion and much more. Even Woody Allen movies at their best, are stories I relate to and always make me laugh.
Humour in Everyday Life
Somehow, I’ve always seen the humour in the things happening both around me and to me. And at times, in my most dire of situations, I’d make others laugh, shifting the mood or breaking the tension. Although I can be a serious person, I don’t stay there too long. Generally, I see something funny in almost everything.
It’s fascinating for me to observe what actually makes other people laugh. When I saw Ellen Degeneres speak live at a women’s event, she affirmed that her humour is based on kindness and compassion, not at someone else’s expense. This is the kind of humour that appeals to me too. Often my humour is self-deprecating, at my own personal expense, but I’m OK with that if others see the humour and laugh along with me.
My daughter Lani and I share the most incredible and often outrageous bouts of laughter together, sometimes started from some seemingly ridiculous or innocent comment or observation. Often, others have absolutely no idea what we’re laughing about, but they start laughing just because our joy is contagious. One of the innocent results of laughter is that you can spread it quickly. And in a tough economy, it’s free.
Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician in Mumbai, India started laughter clubs in 1995 because he saw that laughter can act like “a benevolent virus that can infect individuals, communities and nations.” There are thousands of laughter clubs in more than 100 countries around the world now.
The premise: small groups of people get together regularly to laugh. Just because. Their goal is thought-free laughter. There’s no setup. No premise. No jokes. The result: pure laughter. As Kataria has said, “When you are playful, you are activating the right side of your brain. The logical brain is a limited brain. The right side is unlimited. You can be anything you want.” He sees laughter as a possible path to world peace. I too am on this path.
Neuroscientists have also shown that it is our right brain hemisphere that plays an essential role in understanding and appreciating humour. Thank goodness for this.
Although, I’ve rarely met people who have no sense of humour at all, I admit it can be unsettling when I do. Perplexing, to be honest. I wonder what it takes to get through to them. Will anything make them laugh? Since my personal goal is to get at least a small laugh or smile from those I encounter, humorless people mystify me.
Health Benefits of Laughter
Smiling, laughing and humour promote the release of endorphins, which is a very healthy for us. Laughing, like smiling, decreases stress hormones and boosts the immune system. It also has great benefits for the cardiovascular system, as it increases your heart rate, pumping more blood to the internal organs. Laughter can be a natural way to relieve pain. Laughter helps us release tension, much like sneezing or orgasm does.
Laughing, as my daughter and I have found, is a great social activity too. In the same way as storytelling, laughter is more about relationships than about jokes. I’ve heard that people rarely laugh alone, although I admit that I do. Because laughter is a form of non-verbal communication, it can convey empathy.
Children are Laughter Champions
Children have been reported to laugh up to 300 times a day, yet adults less than 20. As with smiling, kids are far ahead of us adults in their expression of joy. Humour is definitely a transformational tool.
Through humour and laughter, we can bring about healing, celebration, love and compassion. Humorist Steve Bhaerman (aka Swami Beyondananda) says that God says we are all funny, but we just don’t know it yet.
Laughing at Ourselves
By laughing at myself, it somehow has the ability to liberate others. Humour becomes a catalyst. When I was ill, humour was one of the things that helped save my life, over and over again. For sure it has given me rich stories to share with others, stories which ultimately became the substance of my book Confessions of a Middle-Aged Hippie. People seem to identify with these stories, so I can only hope this brings a little bit of lightness to them or their situation. Perhaps even a bit of hope in a new possibility.
Because one of my philosophies is, “Hope, Humour, Life”, I’m delighted when people tell me that somehow my humour and stories have brought a smile or laugh to their day. For me, a great sense of humour is a really big turn-on and one of the most attractive things in another person. After all, who would laugh with me otherwise?
Laughter is a Healthy Lifestyle Choice
In my post Health is Truly a Matter of Choice(s), I shared that all of our lifestyle choices contribute to our health. Laughter is definitely a healthy lifestyle choice. As a Health and Vitality Consultant, I see how even simple changes can make a huge difference in how people feel. This is why I work directly with you to prepare a personal plan to address your health concerns.
It’s easy to get started. Begin with the True Health Assessment which only takes 10 minutes. You’ll receive a personalized report in three sections. The first identifies your top health risk factors. The second maps out a recommended lifestyle plan that identifies ways you can improve your health. The third provides you with individualized nutrition recommendations based on your specific assessment answers. After this, we’ll set up a time to talk. Wishing you good health and lots of laughter…
How does humour and laughter influence your life?
Attitude is everything, and finding the humor in all of life’s situations is key to being happy!
Jennifer Quisenberry recently posted…Celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary with Dave Marinaccio
Perfectly said Jennifer! Yes, attitude is everything and when we seek, we’ll find the humour in even the darkest of our moments. The key to being happy…find the humour and spread it around.
I love this stuff Beverley.
Thanks for sharing the healing properties of laughter and your preferences. The Bible states that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” and science has proven it.
Maybe it is the elections, but I notice a lot less laughter floating around recently! I never pass up a chance to laugh or to share a chuckle with a friend. I am currently participating in a Humor Challenge where I have to find and share something funny each morning and then journal or share the funniest thing that happened to me during the day each evening and I am enjoying it.
Rachel Lavern recently posted…5 Main Mindset Changes for Entrepreneurs â Part 2
I love the idea of a Humor Challenge, Rachel! It really sounds like it brings the fun and humour in your daily life into full focus. Fabulous! Like you, I have been quite fascinated by the elections and find that a very somber mood has taken over. For this world to heal, we need more laughter, more humour challenges and more people conscious of creating the joy and healing that laughter brings.
My dad also was the storyteller, the guy with the great sense of humor. I didn’t appreciate him as much growing up as I do now, of course. I, too, inherited his humor and storytelling abilities. One of the sad things to me about our online connected lifestyle is that we are losing so much of the personal, face-to-face storytelling that so enriches our lives and the lives of others.
It’s great to hear that you have grown to appreciate your father’s storytelling and sense of humour, Jackie. Yes, you did inherit that from him and it comes through loudly in your writing. I couldn’t agree with you more about the online world and how so much of our communication now lacks the in person face-to-face interaction that storytelling really relies on. I guess people like us are now entrusted with keeping that tradition going.
Laughter plays a big role in our language discourse. But, I think animals give us the best gift of honest laughter. I don’t know how they have figured it out, but they do a darn good job of making us laugh. I would love to know how much Internet traffic is taken up by all the cat and dog videos.
Joyce Hansen recently posted…7 ways your business brain responds to info
You are so right about animals giving us the gift of laughter, Joyce. Having my daughter’s three animals living here with me offers a constant source of entertainment and laughter. And yes, if we used Youtube as our gage, we’d see how many people love all things cats and dogs and how much laughter they are providing the world.
Bev – I love the premise that laughter is a daily lifestyle choice. This is so true! I think a lot of it is like playing piano – a few are brilliant without training, but training helps the rest of us. For women, watching other female comediennes lets us know its possible and so much more. I’m glad you mentioned Ellen DeGeneres – she is wickedly funny – and you’re right – it’s based on kindness. Jay Leno, who held the #1 spot on NBC for decades once stated that he honestly felt that the reason other late night hosts didn’t fare so well was that much of their humor was steeped in meanness. Yikes!
Joan Potter recently posted…BE BRAVE. BE KIND.
Thanks so much for getting that idea that laughter is a daily lifestyle choice, Joan. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people chose laughter more often? I agree with you that female comediennes do us all a great service and Ellen really nailed it when she shared that laughter based on kindness is the best kind. Thanks for mentioning about Jay Leno, as I had never really noticed that about him, although I didn’t often watch him to be honest. It is true that many of the late night hosts are using condescension and meanness in their jokes. Here’s to kindness and laughter in all of our lives and more of it too!
Beverley, I come from a pretty serious family, so laughter doesn’t come easily for me, however, when my boys were early teens I finally figured out that laughter about what they did made a huge difference in our relationship. I know let myself laugh at myself and little things. Definite improvement in my life. Oh and I have never heard of a laughter club. That would be awesome.
Karen Grosz recently posted…Let’s Get Real Friday Party – #157
Even though my father had a great sense of humour and my mother laughed all the time, I was still a pretty serious person myself, Karen. As I’ve grown and relaxed into my life, somehow laughter comes much more easily to me. It’s great that you are finding your inner laughter and making sure to include it in your daily life. And that you find it adds to your life too. Yes, the laughter clubs are so wonderful. Although I haven’t gone to one myself, I know people who have and have loved it!
They say laughter is the best medicine and I so believe that to be true. Unfortunately in our society we are losing our ability to stop and smell the roses, to be still and find joy in the moment. We are over worked and over committed. This is a great reminder of how important it is to laugh often.
Yes, laughter continue to prove to be such a potent elixir, April! It continues to uplift and heal as if it has magical powers. We all are overworked and over committed and I am happy this was a reminder to you to make sure to add laughter into your life..to lighten your days!
Just loved this and this week have had a lot of laughter in my life and realise how important it is – this article http://bit.ly/2cmI7u7 had me in stitches and that day I laughed more than I have for ages. Smiling so special and it surprises me each day as i say hello and smile at people as we walk on the beach at how many people need a dose of laughter. Love your writing and love of life that comes through xx thank you
Suzie…thanks so much for sharing that article with us. It is wonderful to know how laughter has such a positive impact in all our lives! It’s wonderful to hear you laughed more than you have in ages too. It must feel grand. I love that you walk the beach and stop and smile and talk to people…making their day and yours too. I so appreciate your support of me and my writing! Here’s to loads of laughter in life!
When I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease I spent nearly a year flying back and forth between Maui and Oahu to see a specialist. Almost immediately I noticed no one in that office smiled – not the doctor, or the staff, and certainly not the patients. I made it my mission to bring some smiles and a little laughter to that office! So instead of thinking about the possibility of losing my sight, or the experimental nature of the treatments, I focused myself on doing something to make those people smile. I chatted and joked with the patients, brought homemade cookies, every trip I challenged myself to come up with new ideas and when they smiled it made me feel absolutely awesome!
For a whole year I did that, and the only person I couldn’t make smile was the doctor. Finally, on my very last visit, I pulled out all the stops and pounded him with every corny joke I could think of and nothing but eye rolls. Then he turned around to pick up an instrument and when he looked back at me I had one of those big fake noses on and he just lost it! FINALLY! Long way of telling you that totally agree with you about the power of laughter. 🙂
Marquita Herald recently posted…Challenges to Enrich Your Life
Love, love, love your story, Marquita! How kind of you to commit to bringing smiles and laughter to the office. I have a specialist I see, and the energy in the waiting room is very dire. Maybe on my yearly visit I’ll see if I can inject some smiles into the mix! I am also very happy you were finally able to make the doctor smile! It sounds like he was long overdue for a laugh too! Brilliant!!
I Love this, Beverley Golden! So needed right now-the power of light, lightness and a sense of humor! Laughter is definitely a super healer!
Colleen recently posted…Winding up Summer-Staying/Getting on Course
Thanks so much Colleen! Agree that laughter always lightens the mood and has the power to uplift and heal!
I really enjoyed reading this again Beverley. It’s always good to be reminded that something that feels so good – like laughter – is good for us too.
Tamuria recently posted…HOW TO MAKE A MAGICAL MOON MOBILE
Thanks for reading and commenting again, Tami! Yes to laughter not only feeling good, but also being good for our body and soul.
A great article and enjoyed this about humor because having a good attitude and humor is good for the body and the heart. Being stressed out a lot can really hurt the system It’s a good thing to have a sense of humor in the world today. I liked the article and how you explained that your father had a sense of humour , it’s a great thing to have grown up this way,
Humour and laughter really do have so many health benefits, Lori. It would be wonderful if more people could shake off their stress and anxiety with a daily round of laughing. It would be great for our world too. Yes, my father had a wonderful sense of humour and I only hope I inherited not only his storytelling abilities, but also his sense of humour. Thanks so much!
I love to laugh. If someone can make me laugh I am in danger of developing a slavish devotion to that person and will follow them anywhere. Laughter is pure gold. And I love making others laugh as well. Nothing better! What a great post – and – perfect timing – a perfect commemoration of another sweet and wonderful funny man, Gene Wilder!
Reba Linker recently posted…Look at the Bright Spots
I love your description of how people who make you laugh impact you, Reba! You would be a great person to have around. Laughter really is pure gold and it is wonderful to be someone who both is able to make people laugh and who can laugh at others jokes too. I find it is often one or the other. Yes, Gene Wilder was truly one of our great funny men. Thanks for adding that to this conversation about laughter!
Enjoyed reading this again as I always pick up on some new point. I’m thinking about people who have trouble letting go & laughing. Once a month, hubby & I go to a comedy show. Three comedians on the roster. Most times hubby isnt laughing until the 3rd person is up. I & fortunately some around me, are laughing from the start. He enters almost as a challenge- make me laugh. And if he doesnt like their style- despite a good one or 2 lines, he resists. In day to day life he makes me laugh & that is one of his goals. When I look around at the comedy show it is women letting loose with laughter. Many men sit with scowls & arms folded. Tough audience.
That’s an interesting observation about men and laughing, Roz. I know my former husband was easy to get to laugh. My family generally finds me funny, often because of my dry sense of humour that comes unexpectedly. My friend Marty, also has a rich sense of laughter and is a great person too have around to laugh at your jokes. I love the unexpected humour that gets me to laugh. The predictable doesn’t often do it. Happy that you and your husband make it a point to get out and laugh together…even if it takes him longer to join the party.
I tend to laugh at the wrong time. When I hear tragic news, I laugh. Honestly, I don’t even know why. However, in general I laugh. IT feels good.
Renee groskreutz recently posted…Are You At War With Your Social Share Buttons?
I think some people laugh when they are nervous, Renee, so maybe that is what it is for you. Yes, laughing generally feels so good and makes us feel better too!
Laughter is the best medicine. I especially love the out loud deep laughter. There’s just something about the great sound of a laugh that comes from your belly.
Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Black Bean Soup Freezer Meal
It’s great to hear that you have that ability to rally your laugh out loud laughter, Sabrina. I am working on that, as my laughter can be more contained, unless something catches me off guard and I just laugh for no reason at all.
Isn’t laughter just the most wonderful thing! And oh-so healing. And I’m with you–for me the true essence of life is stories. And we do remember those much more than facts, don’t we! I just love stories, and especially when they make me laugh!
Susan Mary Malone recently posted…The Power of Silence in a Chaotic World
Laughter truly is a gift, Susan! I love the unexpected, from out-of-nowhere kind of laughing bouts. And yes, I think stories, especially those that make us laugh, are the best kind of all.
Even a little laughter can always make the most stressful of days a lot easier to deal with and sometimes you realize things aren’t really that bad.
Joe Butka recently posted…Website Accessibility How Do You Measure Up
Agree with you 100% Joe. Adding laughter to any situation can lighten it and actually flip our perspective on the situation.
Hi Beverley 🙂
Really enjoyed your post so much! A little humour and laughter can go a very long way in making our lives a little happier 🙂 I try to laugh daily and find humour in so much of the negativity that is in this world 🙂
Thank you for sharing this awesome post and for the reminder to laugh more 🙂
Joan Harrington recently posted…Must-Know Rules to Being a Successful Online Network Marketer
Thanks so much Joan! Happy you enjoyed this one and I agree that a little bit of humour and laughter really lifts our lives to a much happier level. It’s great to hear you are laughing daily, as it our stress-filled world, often it is challenging to overcome the negativity we hear and see so much. Appreciate your support and wish you some wonderful days filled with laughs and humour.
I totally believe that laughter is one of most effective medicines! I love laughing and also love to hang out with people who laugh a lot. Now my goal is to find something to laugh each day, that will be fun challenge 🙂 I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you so much 🙂
Kaz recently posted…Top 3 Secrets You Want to Know to Improve and Maintain Your Fitness After 50 – Part 1/3
What a wonderful goal you have to find something to laugh at each day, Kaz! Sounds like you truly get the health benefits of including humour and laughter in your life, especially that you love hanging out with like-minded people. Glad you enjoyed this post and as always, thanks for your support! 🙂
Laughing and having fun more cannot only save your life, but also making sure you have a really enjoyable one.
I do my best to find humour in every situation and look hard to the silver lining in everything that life brings my way.
I also find out that watching funny movies, a comedy and even cute and funny videos really help to bring spirits high. It’s something we strive for in our family as well.
Delia @ Happy Blogger Plaza recently posted…8 reasons why you’re not blogging with confidence (and how to fix’em!)
Agree that humour and laughter have many outstanding health and wellness benefits, Delia. It’s a wonderful way to live life, and sounds like you are infusing your days with some lightness, regardless of the situation. Yes, to watching funny movies, as they also lighten the mood and take our minds off the “issue” of the moment. It’s a great way to bring up your family as well! Kudos to you and your husband for that.
Oh I LOVE this post Beverly! where do I start, first of all, would have loved to hear your father’s stories, I love a good funny story!
Next, I use to teach patients about diabetes, very serious subject, but somehow I could make my classes laugh, it kept them coming back. Not a funny subject, but I could share stories on a funny level that they could relate to…I think we feel less isolated that way. All my classes I try to get people laughing, it is a release. Love this post, laughter is the best medicine….and love George Carlin and Woody Allen is so funny too. Great post!
Lisa recently posted…Fall Is My Favorite Time of Year
Thanks for sharing your experience in actually using laughter and humour in your work, Lisa. What you shared supports the value and power that laughter can have in even the most dire of situations. My father was a master storyteller and of course that was a different time and era in our lives, yet I see how George Carlin and some of the modern comedians have carried forward that brilliant storytelling. So happy to hear how you truly embrace laughter in your work as well as you life, as we need more laughter makers, to contribute the healing in the world. I appreciate your enthusiasm for the post and I am really happy I finally shared it with people!
Do you remember those funny little laughing bags they used to sell? You’d push a button and a recording of someone’s laughter would play. Before you knew it you’d be laughing right along with them. It truly is contagious. I love the idea of laughter clubs. I recently read babies smile and laugh around 400 times a day. Sad we grow out of that. I truly believe in the power of laughter to heal. Thanks for another great read Beverley. 🙂
Tamuria recently posted…6 MUST HAVES FOR THE CRAFT BOX
Thanks for the reminder about the laughing bags Tamuria, I think that should be part of our daily rhythm, to spend some time making sure we laugh. In an article I wrote about the power of smiling, I also saw the research that shows that babies smile 400 times a day and often that leads to laughter. Quite a lesson we can learn from them. Glad you enjoyed this post and hope your day is filled with smiles and laughter! 🙂
There’s nothing better than a good old belly laugh! Having a sense of humor can get us through so many situations – darkness becomes light and our minds find new solutions or we can look at what was previously a problem through a new lens.
You have definitely inherited the storytelling gene – keep on sharing those stories!
Deb Nelson recently posted…Primary Food: You Won’t Find It On Your Plate
Thanks Deb, as I appreciate your support of my storytelling pieces. And yes, as we all know, laughter certainly does have magical healing powers and yet so often we get caught up and forget to incorporate it into our lives. I plan to keep on sharing my stories too! 🙂
Laughter is the best medicine, Beverley. For some reason, reading your post reminded me of the song in Mary Poppins, “I Love to Laugh” which always got me laughing.
Laughter is also a great way to avoid overwhelm with a situation though the other person may not realize that the laughter is not meant to feel funny but a way of hiding nervousness. 🙂
Vatsala Shukla recently posted…5 Tips to manage Time Targets
Thanks for that song reference, Vatsala. Those who can incorporate laughter into their lives, certainly adds a lightness of being, which is much needed in our world today. Laughter is a great way to break the tension and yes, sometimes it is misunderstood or misrepresented, however, I prefer a nervous laugh to a stone cold poker face any day! 🙂
The ability to laugh always makes everything better I think Beverley. Those who take life too seriously seem to be the ones who get more ailments and cannot find happiness or contentment in their lives.
Ian Campbell recently posted…Why You Need Your Own Website To Succeed Online
You are right on with your thoughts Ian. Those who can find humour and laugh at life, are often much healthier than those who take life very seriously. Knowing that life has the light and the dark, makes it easier I believe, to “lighten” up and enjoy each moment. I agree that the ability to laugh certainly does make life better all around.
I do believe you have inherited your parents gift of lightness and laughter, and even more so, your dad’s story telling ability. Every topic you write about is like listening to a story. Perhaps the next phase in your writing is to read your blog or do a Vlog. Enjoyed.
Thanks for sharing that observation of me Roslyn. My mother has a lightness for sure, my father more of a heaviness to his soul and I believe in many ways that is me as well. We both love telling stories and he was a master of doing it verbally. I see how I do love telling stories using the written word and often lately, I’ve loved sharing my stories via radio shows and podcasts. As far as a Vlog, I am very camera sensitive and am not sure I could be spontaneous and impromptu the way some people are, not caring so much about the visual quality of what they are doing. I could definitely record my voice telling stories and maybe that is the idea behind having a podcast to create conversations with others and we could be sharing stories with each other and the audience. Thanks for the suggestions!