Archived from the week of July 2 @ The Guilde:
Laugh as much as possible, always laugh.
It's the sweetest thing one can do for oneself & one's fellow human beings.
-- Maya Angelou
As we hurtled toward Independence Day earlier this week, we found ourselves reflecting upon the fact that we seem to be having a harder time finding humor and laughter in our days, and in the lives of those around us. These are serious times we are living through, people. It’s a serious time to be a woman, a serious time to be a human being, and a serious time to be an American.
But if we are to believe that old trope that laughter is the best medicine, our emotional immune systems must truly be running on empty.
We did ourselves some research, and it turns out that it’s true: Humor is the great elixir of life, the magical potion that makes everything better.
It's also worth noting that laughter is the sound of our joy. That’s big. And obvious. But it still bears mentioning. We need to hear the sound of our own joy!
There are a lot of rabbit holes we could have gone down with this topic, and here's what we rejected covering: (1) the notion that men are funnier than women (not true in our humble opinion); (2) the idea that men don't like funny women (hoping this isn't true but don't really care); (3) the difference between humor that cuts people down and humor that reflects and inspires our humanity (we prefer the latter); and (4) the Carol Burnett quote that "Comedy is tragedy plus time" (we agree with this in theory, but need the comedy now).
Here’s what we do want to share:
Laughter is medicine, and we need a dose of it every day.
In the short term, a good laugh induces powerful physical and emotional changes in your body. It releases dopamine (the feel good chemical), increases blood flow to your heart, stimulates key organs, activates and relieves your stress response, and soothes tension. The long term effects are great, too. Laughter improves your immune system, relieves pain, increases personal satisfaction and connection with others, and heightens your mood. In fact, evolution gave us laughter to help us process conflict in our environment. So we might as well use it, right?
You can deliberately grow humor in your life and the lives of those around you.
As human beings, we have the capacity to understand humor in our very first year of life. We develop it naturally, and in relationship to others. And then as we get older, what with adult responsibilities and all, most of us get increasingly serious over time. We might laugh with friends on a Saturday night, but who has time to do it every day? We do, that's who. And if we choose to make humor a priority, we can expect it to bloom. This is exactly what the Pope does; he prays for a sense of humor every day. No joke.
The prescription is this: learn what amuses you, and then immerse yourself in it. Watch standup, listen to funny podcasts, read humorous books, screen funny films, sign up for an improv class, and hang out with people who make you laugh. Heighten your own comic vision by looking for the absurd incongruities around you every day. When you laugh and use humor generously, you help build a social environment that is more conducive to future funny moments. Humor is wonderfully contagious like that.
Humor is perspective shifting.
“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities,” wrote Philosopher Jean Houston. Comedy challenges our ways of seeing and being in the world, helping us circumvent ingrained thoughts and perspectives that might be limiting us and our relationships with the world and one another. The right kind of humor can open your mind, expand your heart, and bust your gut all at the same time. Even in the darkest of situations, when you have the wherewithal to come up for air to look for the funny silver lining, you truly tap into one of the best ways to cope with it. You enter the possibility of changing something about it.
Finally, life gets better when you develop a sense of humor about yourself.
The ability to laugh at oneself — embracing your flaws, laughing at them and letting them go — amounts to deep self-acceptance, which is key to a happy life. And one of the best parts of getting older.
May you find some laughs this weekend and throughout the Summer . . .
XO, Dana & Kristan