“Happy is the person who can laugh at himself. He will never cease to be amused.”
Who among us needs a good laugh? With all the stressors in today’s world, surely, we all do! There are different types of laughter, but the healthy kind of laughter is “mirth.” Mirthful laughter is that merry, oxygenating laughter that feels soooo good and can bind our souls. It reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and improves vascular function, which lowers blood pressure.
How do we promote “healthy humor” in our lives? It starts in our own homes–what we choose to laugh at, and how we help each other to find healthy humor in our own daily, messy, imperfect lives.
Years ago, as we were raising our family, I observed how differently families handled everyday chaos that naturally comes with, well…life. My next‑door neighbor, Nancy, was pleased that her teenage daughter had taken an interest in cooking. One evening Nancy came home to find that Amy had fixed dinner. The family gathered around the kitchen table and began enjoying the macaroni and cheese she’d prepared.
“Uh, Amy,” Nancy asked, mid‑bite. “What did you use to drain the macaroni?”
“The strainer, of course,” Amy said.
“Where did you get it?”
“From the top rack of the dishwasher. I know the dishwasher hadn’t run yet, but I figure you had just used the strainer to rinse fruit or vegetables or something, right?”
“Yechhhhh. … I used it to drain the fishbowl today!” Nancy choked.
This remark was immediately followed by the unison spitting of noodles and rinsing of mouths by the family of four.
They ate sandwiches that night.
Years later that little mishap has become one of their favorite stories to retell when the family gets together. Because her parents created a loving environment, the entire family—including Amy—could see the humor in the situation, enjoy a good laugh, and still laugh about it today. A fun memory was created.
Not all families would have created a funny memory. My friend “Joan” grew up in a household wrought with harsh ridicule. She once told me, “The first time I heard the expression ‘There’s no use crying over spilled milk,’ it confused me. When I was growing up, if the milk was spilled, someone had to be blamed, criticized, and certainly not forgiven. So when I heard that expression the first time as a teenager, it didn’t even make sense to me. It was such a foreign concept.”
Joan grew up feeling as though she was “walking on eggshells” all the time. As an adult, she discovered other people enjoyed life a whole lot more than she did.
“I noticed that other people could just move on when things go wrong, without getting mad. They can even laugh about them!” Thankfully, Joan now realizes that she doesn’t have to continue this cycle of tension and blame and is determined to do better for her children.
“But it’s really hard to break old habits,” she confesses. “Growing up, I was never taught to find humor in everyday situations. I was taught to always place blame on myself or others. I’m still working on making healthier patterns in my own life.”
Humans have always needed humor and laughter. Yet, ironically, the times our society most needs healthy humor (that reduces stress hormones and produces healthy hormones,) the more we see the unhealthy kind of mean humor being generated, 24/7, for public consumption. Mean-spirited, social media leaves us feeling unhappy and stressed.
Reader’s Digest magazine has published a monthly article for years called “Laughter the Best Medicine.” But Reader’s Digest didn’t originate the idea. It was written thousands of years ago as a prescription for a “downcast spirit” in order to foster better health! Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” Ol’ King Solomon ad his writing buddies were on to something.
Throughout the millennia, wise people know we need to laugh for the good of ourselves and society. Yet, oftentimes, when we most need a laugh, we don’t allow ourselves to take the “good medicine” of healthy humor.
It has been said that you grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself. If we can’t solve a problem, finding some humor in it is the next best thing; sometimes it’s even better. What a wonderful gift we can give our children and others–to create a loving, safe environment in which we can laugh with each other!
What fun mirth-filled memory do you recall? Share below!
”Even in with the growth in life expectancy, there is a need for whole-person care that enhances the quality of life, not just longevity.”
-Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology article, 02/2022