Give the Gift of Laughter

“Tis the season for holiday parties, family dinners and of course family arguments.” Isn’t this supposed to be the season to be jolly? Yet most people I know this time of year are usually pretty grumpy. So this holiday season I’ve decided to give the gift of laughter.

Laughter is one of our greatest gifts.  What good is a gift that we don’t use?  (The fruitcakes at Christmas don’t count.  Those are always best left uneaten.)   I understand that there are times when your problems and concerns are so overwhelming that it feels disrespectful to laugh, you just don’t want to laugh, or, for whatever reason, you just can’t find it in you.  I respect that.  We’ve all been there.

However, understand this: If at any time you’re feeling you can’t find anything to laugh about that’s exactly when you need it the most.  Just as mourning and grieving are essential in order to heal, so too is our ability to step away from the chaos craziness or pain, even if only for a few moments, to seek joy in other aspects of our lives.

The reason some people don’t allow themselves to laugh and enjoy their lives when times are tough is because they feel guilty or they feel they don’t have the right.  They say, “How can I laugh when I was just diagnosed with cancer?” or “How can I find something funny when someone I love is going through such a tough time?” or “How can you expect me to laugh and enjoy my life when the economy is falling apart and I may lose my job at any time?”

Well my friend, that’s when you’re supposed to.  That’s when you need it most. Laughter releases serotonin (“the happy hormone”) and relaxes you. It will help you to sleep. It will help you to find creative solutions to your problems. It will smooth difficult spots in your relationships (like those difficult dinners!) And perhaps best of all, it can actually prolong your life. Lots of research indicate that happier, positive people live longer.

It is essential that we all understand that there is a difference between laughing at something that is serious and laughing off the fear it represents.  I believe that’s the number one reason why we are given the gift of laughter: To laugh in the face of fear.

As Mark Twain said, “Not even fear can stand against the assault of laughter.” To laugh in the face of fear. When you do perception changes, negativity shifts and fear is abated. I’m not talking about fear of your Uncle Bill telling that same story at the holiday meal. I’m talking about the real life issues that are causing you anxiety. It’s good to laugh. It’s healthy to laugh. Your problems will be handled more easily if you get a little more light-hearted and find more levity in your life.

If you’ve ever seen the former hit television series M.A.S.H, you’ve witnessed numerous examples of what it means to laugh off the fear.  The character Hawk-eye, played by Alan Alda, has his Humor Being working overtime.  In many episodes we observe him in the operating room exhausted and without proper medical supplies.  Sometimes shelling is exploding all around.

Power is going on and off as his hands are in some soldier’s body cavity and blood is spurting all over the place.  In the midst of all of this chaos, what do we find him doing?  That’s right.  He’s cracking jokes.  But in cracking those jokes he’s not negating the seriousness of the moment, not at all.

Hawk-eye intuitively knows that his sense of humor is the only saving grace in a place where there seems to be so little hope.  Young men are dying on the table in front of him.  In this grim reality his humor is giving him the strength, courage and emotional fortitude to get the job done, and save lives.

Now, some of you may think, “Great example Steve, but get a grip.  It’s a television show.  It’s not real.”  That may be so, it is a television show, but the show and the movie M.A.S.H were actually based on the memoir of a real doctor who served in the M.A.S.H. unit during the Korean War.

Twisted humor of all kinds is used as an emotional shield to protect the military and civilians alike in times of war, just as a helmet or a shelter is used to protect their physical selves from harm’s way.  My view is that the reason this particular memoir from the M.A.S.H. unit was developed into “mass entertainment” was because it depicts the type of humor often necessary to endure the perils of war and other tragedies.

On or off the battlefield. In business or in life.  You can turn painful situations around through laughter.  If you can find humor in anything, you can survive it.

Read that again my friend, for it is a key to not only survive, but to enjoy yourself amiss the stress and chaos that always comes with the Christmas holiday season.

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