Real laughter has always been something that I seem to struggle with. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard I almost cried…or had such a deep laugh that my belly hurt. I grew up in a house where there wasn’t much laughter and feel like I didn’t learn this behavior. Any thoughts or suggestions?
I get messages like this one more often than you might expect. Many, many people have been raised without humor and laughter playing an important role during their formative years. There’s a number of reasons why this can happen. Different cultures, and different families, place a different premium on the value of laughter.
This article by Helen Dennis provides a great example:
“My parents were immigrants. Work was a way of life in order to make it in America. To waste time was almost sinful. Play was an indulgence that was not acknowledged and never rewarded. My parents did not have time for it. It is still difficult to divorce myself from these childhood values. My sister continues to ask me if I had a productive day, rather than asking if I had any fun.”
One thing we have learned over the years is that humor and play actually have significant value. They’re good for us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The ability to laugh and have fun makes us feel better – and we enjoy better physical health as a result!
In What’s So Funny About Diabetes?: A Creative Approach to Coping with Your Disease I share many ways you can increase the amount of humor and laughter in your life. You can use these techniques even if you’ve grown up without the experience of humor. Some of them may feel a little strange at first, but you’ll find that practice makes it easier.
- Seek humor from those around you. Ask them about their experiences and see if it reminds you of any of yours.
- Keep a journal of funny stories, past and present. Review it periodically.
- Spend more time with those who do make you laugh.
- Start searching for authors, comedians and such that tickle your funny bone. (I listen to/read David Sedaris, Bill Bosby, and Dave Barry–and everyone’s sense of humor is unique. There is so much to choose from.).
- YouTube is a great place to search for things that make you laugh. If nothing more than looking for “laughing babies” you won’t be able to help yourself from smiling. And their are a plethora of videos of funny children, funny pets and animals, bloopers from your favorite TV shows, comics (professional and aspiring), music parodies, and much much more.
- Keep an active eye for funny signs. I saw one just this week in a coffee shop that said, “Unattended children will be given an expresso and a free puppy.”
- Watch for misprints, typos in the newspaper that can have double meanings. (On a food section recently a headline was “Children Make Tasty Snacks.” Are the kids making the snacks or ARE they the snacks?!)
- Decorate your work space with items that bring a smile to your face whether they be posters, pictures, toys, fun knick-knacks. If you place something like a Koosh Ball or Slinky on your desk, watch how many people feel compelled to pick it up and play with it while in your office.
- Make a play list of at least 20 things you find fun to do, and keep it handy. Half of the items should be little to no cost. The next time you feel down or “icky”, pull out your list and do at least one item on the list–you will feel better.