WEEKLY STRETCH 2-3-17 ~ ON HUMOR AND LAUGHTER

Times have been pretty crazy around these parts lately, wouldn’t you agree? Every day is an adventure. I find that every morning when I awaken I take a deep breath and steel myself for the next wild thing. It’s a little bit like being on a carnival ride. You never know what sort of twist or turn is coming next. There’s screaming and yelling and gnashing of teeth – and you’d better be strapped in and holding on tight. One thing for certain – we are never bored!

We’ve seen people coming together to demonstrate, to make calls, write letters, sign petitions and make their voices heard. We’ve had shock and awe and all sorts of emotional upheaval. It’s been a rip-roaring time and in my heart of hearts I believe we are at the apex of major change and that we will land upright.

What I’ve also noticed is the emergence of humor – dark, slapstick, corny, silly, sarcastic humor. I must say that I’ve enjoyed the sense of relief it brings when I see or hear a sharply clever comment in response to something I can barely tolerate that suddenly turns the situation on its head and makes me laugh out loud. I’ve noticed that some of my friends and family are even funnier than I thought (I have a LOT of funny people in my life) and when they get a zinger off I burst out in belly laughter. The word satire is defined as, “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” I don’t think I’ve ever known a better time for this phenomenon.

Humor is an amazing thing. We usually look to professionals for this sort of relief. I would imagine the comedy clubs are making a fortune right now. We desperately need to laugh. Psychology Today says, “Laughter just might be the most contagious of all emotional experiences. What’s more, it is a full-on collaboration between mind and body. Although laughter is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, little is known about the mechanisms behind it. Scientists do know that laughter is a highly sophisticated social signaling system, helping people bond and even negotiate. Interestingly, most social laughter does not result from any obvious joke. Laughter is not limited to communicating mirth. Although laughter is not generally under voluntary control, yukking it up has numerous health benefits: It releases tension, lowers anxiety, boosts the immune system, and aids circulation.” I would add that it is a welcome release when the news of the day creates fear and worry.

There are so many issues up for review, and our situation is very serious indeed. For the most part, none of it is funny per se. And yet, when we use our sense of humor as a tool to navigate this rocky terrain we lift our energy and we come together in yet another way. As the quote from Psychology Today noted, it helps us to bond. And right now, I’m all about finding ways for us to bond.

So, here’s to the laughter. Here’s to finding ways to have fun. Here’s to using satire in a way that releases tension and fear without meanness or cruelty. Here’s to my dear ones who make me laugh every day and remind me that there is more going on in our lives than the daily news.

STRETCH: Find a way to have fun. Watch a funny movie or TV show. Go to a comedy club. Let your body enjoy the sensation of giggling and laughing out loud. You need it. I need it. We all need it.

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