Laughter is carbonated holiness.

~ Anne Lammott

I just wrote about 400 words on exposing our emotional self to people who haven’t earned that privilege…beautiful words. Truth in the sentences. Honesty in my self-reflection.

But, I stopped before I finished. It felt heavy and deep. And I really want to giggle this morning. I want to start the day with silliness. Joy. Smiles.

I believe laughter is a crucial ingredient in our healthy existence. So many people create distance between themselves and others when humor, laughter, light-heartedness could actually be the bridge connecting pain and differences.

It didn’t take me long to realize how important laughter would be in the helping profession. My first job in the field was as a phone counselor at a 24/7 crisis line. I was a junior in college and had completed my practicum at the call center when I was offered a part-time job there. This was the time before cell phones, before the internet, before GPS.

If there was a caller who was suicidal and we were the only counselor working (which was typical in this small organization), the counselor would have to pick up another line to call the police and ask for a tracing of the phone lines to locate the caller – while on the phone with the caller. It was both a difficult and delicate matter – trying to continue building rapport and safety with the caller in crisis and report a need for assistance from authorities.

Obviously, there was an enormous amount of stress involved, but in the de-briefing and reflection process we tried to find a moment to laugh at ourselves. Please don’t confuse that with being disrespectful to the people involved or the seriousness of the situation. As counselors, we needed to lighten the emotional burdens that the work entailed in order to be fresh for the next shift or next crisis.

Laughter is a powerful antidote to fear, stress and pain. The use of laughter in medicine is documented in the thirteenth-century medical history as being used as an anesthetic before surgical procedures!

Research has proven time and time again that laughter relieves physical tension and stress for up to 45 minutes following a good belly laugh. Not only does laughter decrease stress hormones and increase immune cells, it also triggers the release of endorphins – our body’s natural pain relievers which also bring about a feeling of euphoria and well-being.

From a mental health perspective, laughter relieves stress and eases fear and anxiety. It’s a definite inoculation to fight bad moods – I’ve never seen someone scowl and laugh simultaneously.

Most importantly, laughter can strengthen relationships by defusing conflicts and promoting commonality and bonding. But, first we must let down our defensiveness and stop being so easily offended…we always have a choice in how we respond – ALWAYS. Why don’t we choose to laugh more?

If you struggle with finding humor in daily life, I’d encourage you to start small…just smile – practice smiling. Consciously choose to smile.

Hunt the good stuff in your life. Make a list of every blessing you have – starting with the basics of food, shelter, clothing if you are struggling to realize you have many things to be grateful for.

Stop watching drama and news on TV…that does not make you fun and playful! There are enough people in your life who will continue to follow the world’s soap opera and let you know what you need to know to survive.

Seek out humor. Why don’t we ask people to share the funniest thing they’ve heard or experienced in their week?

Can we start a revolution of laughter? Can we let go of our defensiveness? Can we be more spontaneous? I think it may be just what the doctor ordered.

Believe. Create. LAUGH. Live.

© 2014 Rebecca G. Townsend