I have been amazed at the ways laughter can emerge amidst even the most difficult of circumstances.
Don’t be afraid of a little humor even during serious situations.
Shane enjoyed a good laugh, whether at work or at home with the kids. So even while he was sick, Shane liked to make people smile. He might show up wearing an elf hat or send someone a little video message wearing a random mask.
When we were reaching out to our CaringBridge community with the latest difficulty, we would often stop to tell a funny story. For instance, the time his dialysis technician suggested Shane should drink beer. That might be more funny in the world of dialysis, where beer-drinking is an absolute no-no, but in Shane’s case his staff was desperate to get him off the milk habit (high in potassium and phosphorus). When we stopped to share the humor we saw in the medical world, I think we wanted to cheer up our readers but also ourselves.
Even after Shane was gone, I thrived on funny stories about him. One of his workmates might email a memory that I re-read for days because it made me smile. Or, I might think back and remember a funny event — or even a not-so-funny event (like a big fight we had) — that, when looking back, suddenly got me chuckling about how young we were or how serious or dramatic we thought things were then.
I continue to notice that seeing the funny side of life makes things more palatable. There have been times when I have had trouble getting my grandkids on board with something and found that, when I could come up with an exaggerated scenario and get one of them giggling, suddenly the whole issue had changed.
As a line went in a children’s book I read recently,
“If somebody can say something funny, then that often makes everybody feel happy.” [Alexander McCall Smith]
The Capacity to Distract, to Redirect, and More
There are so many benefits to humor that it’s worth a try.
- Humor can take the mind off of today’s struggles, moving your focus outward.
- As you laugh, you can be distracted from your concerns and almost feel like your old self again for a moment.
- Humor can strengthen you, moving you in a new direction, giving you a new strategy for endurance.
- Humor is an act of community, a shared experience. Shane used to belong to a social media group called I Hate Dialysis — a tongue-in-cheek group providing community for those enduring the constant challenges of dialysis. The site’s banner read, “We are NOT negative, we just HATE dialysis”!
Potential Health Benefits
Humor also has potential health and relaxation benefits — again making it worth a try.
- The Mayo Clinic says the benefits of laughter may range from relieving stress to chemically boosting the immune system (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456)
- Psychology Today feels the benefits of humor are worthy of study. Although they discount extreme benefits and they warn that extreme humor could correlate with risky behaviors, still they see evidence for stress reduction and immunity boosts, at least in the short-term (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/humor-sapiens/201202/can-humor-and-laughter-boost-your-health)
- The Web MD says laughter might be a form of exercise! (https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#1)
- Mental Floss cites a study that found laughter burns calories, as well! (http://mentalfloss.com/article/539632/scientific-benefits-having-laugh)
You may be the one skilled at telling jokes, card tricks, impersonations, or other talents likely to bring a smile. For the rest of us, we can bring something along:
- A goofy movie.
- A gently funny issue of Reader’s Digest or the like.
- The latest joke circulating in your e-mail.
- A cute cat video or funny commercial shared on Facebook, YouTube, or other social media.
- A memory to share of a silly mistake or a time you laughed together.
Be careful to check in with your someone often, to be sure nothing is taken personally. Sometimes jokes are at the expense of something or other. When that hits a little close to home — a different political opinion, a personality trait that is all-too-familiar, or a trait that hits home such as divorce, alcoholism, or aging — it may be time to change direction.
It is also worth mentioning that some folks want to focus on the “upsetting” and not on the “uplifting”; they want you to recognize how difficult their struggles are and a laugh is not what they are looking for. Keep an eye out for this. Your someone may not have had anyone share this part of their journey with them yet, or they may be the sort of person who copes with difficulties by seeing the drama played out. Take inventory of where both you and your someone sit on the continuum between humor and seriousness, especially in the beginning.
But despite these considerations, remember…
Humor can be a part of blessing others in many ways.
Blog #22, COMMENT BELOW: Any funny stories to share?
P.S. Sorry this went out when I was still in the middle of writing it. I guess that was an example of finding humor in something that went wrong 🙂