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Laughter can be the best medicine

August 14, 2011

How long is your to-do list? Do you ever complete everything on your list? What is your reward for completing all of those things? Are you racing hard and fast to complete all those tasks? Do you overlook the funny side of things? Are you so busy with "things" that you forget to enjoy each day? Do you take life so seriously that you forget to laugh at yourself?

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell writes about immigrants from Roseto Valfortore, Italy, who founded a like community in Bangor, Pa.

They maintained close ties, just as did the culture back home in Italy, as they built their homes, businesses, church and community in Pennsylvania. They enjoyed living in close proximity, visiting back and forth on a daily basis. Why is this important?

"In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of Eastern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world," Gladwell writes. "The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills," their home.

These folks were happier, healthier and lived longer. Heart attacks were rare among these people.

Researchers determined it was their culture, their close family and community ties that made the difference. They lived, laughed and loved, even through their challenges.

In 1977, The Humor Project Inc. was founded by Dr. Joel Goodman. He started the project because he thought the world needed the positive power of humor.

"Seven days without laughter makes one weak," he writes in the fall 2010 edition of Paradigm magazine. He cites Robin Williams' philosophy that "comedy is acting out optimism." Goodman's goal is to bring humor to life. He's made it his life's work, and makes these three points:

1.) Give yourself time away from it all. Go to the lake, a ball game, camping for the weekend. Do something you enjoy, that makes you feel good. Leave the problems and worries at home. They'll wait for you to come back.

2.) Create a humor first aid kit with things that make you laugh and feel good. Personally? I like Bill Cosby's "Noah," and tales of child rearing and Erma Bombeck, in particular, If Life's a Bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Always in the Pits? But any of either artist is excellent for a good time.

3.) Give humor to others. A frown and bad attitude are contagious. So are smiles and laughter.

"Humor is not a trick, not jokes," wrote Garrison Keillor. "Humor is a presence in the world-like grace-and shines on everybody."

Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm on a natural high"? They are happy, content.

That doesn't mean trouble-free. Everyone has troubles. The difference is in how we handle those troubles, our stressors, or as Julia Cameron advises in The Artist's Way, "crazymakers." There are right ways and there are wrong ways to handle stress.

A friend of mine, June, advised me once long ago how to handle bill collectors. "I would explain that all of the bills were put into a hat. One by one a bill was drawn and paid. The lottery continued until money for bill paying ran out."

Then she would quip, "We'll have another drawing next month and your name will be in the hat. With luck you will be a winner."

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities. For information about education, counseling and treatment programs offered by the agency, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or by email, FRC is funded, in part, by donations and contributions from readers and the community.



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