Laughing More for Happiness and Health
The father of one of my favorite people passed away this year.
I almost always cry at funerals and this one was no exception. It’s generally not the deceased I cry for, but the living—my friends who are dealing with the pain of loss.
I also often laugh at funerals because in most cases someone delivering a eulogy will tell a humorous story about the deceased. Again, that was no exception at this funeral. In fact, there were numerous funny stories told because humor largely defined the wonderful man who had passed away.
His family and friends all talked about his warmth and his caring way, but this was probably the first funeral I attended where the overwhelming emphasis was on how good the deceased made you feel because of his wonderful sense of humor.
Laughter is one of the great things in life. I love seeing comedians. I love spending time laughing with friends and family. I regularly think funny thoughts. And I share those thoughts with those around me (possibly more often than I should).
My brother is one of the funniest people I know and I am one of his best audiences. I love to be with him, to talk with him on the phone, or to trade e-mails with him. The same with my friend who just lost his dad—he inherited his sense of humor from his dad—I love how he makes me laugh, and he often tells me that I’m his best audience.
Whenever I get together with friends—one-on-one, as couples, or in a large group setting—the most memorable parts of the times we are together are the times we were laughing. I bet it’s the same for most of you reading this. And yet, we don’t necessarily make laughter a priority.
It seems obvious, because it feels so good, but it’s worth saying that laughter is good for you. Laughing makes you smile and smiling releases chemicals to your brain that make you happy. And it’s not only good for your happiness, but it’s also proven to be good for your health.
Here are seven activities to help you to have more laughter in your life:
- Read funny books, magazine articles, and more. Some of my favorites: Nelson DeMille books with the character John Corey, the book Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard, the on-line satirical newspaper The Onion, David Sedaris’s books, Nobody’s Fool and Straight Man by Pulitzer prize winning author Richard Russo. Search the Web for more suggestions as your taste and mine may differ.
- Hang out with kids. The American TV show from the late ‘90s had it right in its title: Kids really do say the “darndest” things.
- Watch funny movies. Many funny movies are also crude, especially current ones, and that may not appeal to you. But know that there is a wealth of non-crude, funny movie material available on Netflix or on demand on your cable system. Use the Web to search for ones you might find funny. The Princess Bride, Big, and Galaxy Quest are among my favorite movies that do not rely on crude humor. I’m a big fan of Woody Allen’s movies, especially his early ones like Bananas and Love and Death. I also love the wacky movies Harold and Maude and the King of Comedy.
- Watch funny TV shows. I don’t watch a lot of TV. Much of what I have watched over the years is funny stuff. The types of things that make me laugh vary, and you may find much of what I like not to your taste (off-beat and sometimes crude shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, and Flight of the Conchords.) Again, there is plenty to discover if you search the Web for recommendations, and plenty to find if you order from a service like Netflix, such as old episodes of Monty Python, Seinfeld, or Saturday Night Live.
- Watch funny stuff online. We all know about those viral videos on YouTube. There’s a reason most of the things that go viral are funny—people like to laugh!
- Hang out with funny people. I told my friend whose dad passed away that I walked away from his dad’s funeral wishing that I had gotten to spend time with his dad. I know I would have had a lot of laughs. If you don’t think that you are a funny person, don’t be concerned that “funny people” won’t want to hang out with you. Funny people need an audience and will welcome your good company and receptivity to their humor.
- Go to comedy clubs. Every time I go to a comedy show I walk out and say, “I have to do this more often.” And then life interferes and time goes by. Not every comic you see at a show will make you laugh so much that your belly hurts or that your face hurts from smiling—but many will, and it’s worth it to find places near you so that you can make seeing comedians a regular part of your schedule. We recently went to a comedy show and my wife said that these comedians, like all good ones, are so funny that you can’t think about anything else while you are listening to them. Great point!
Every funeral I attend leaves me a better person because of something I learn about the deceased that inspires me. The result of this particular funeral was not one that I expected—to be inspired to laugh more and to spread the word to others. I‘m grateful for that inspiration. To H.M.: RIP and thank you.
p.s. What are some of your favorite ways to laugh? Please join the conversation with your comments here…