I was sitting at my table at Meilori's with my eyes closed, waiting for my cell phone to ring,
letting me know a rural hospital needed rare blood.
Clittering claws clattered on the table top. My weary eyes snapped open.
Ratatosk, the squirrel who carried gossip and insults up and down the Tree of Life from the dragon at the roots to the eagle at its top.
"Trouble I am in!" he shrilled.
My nose wrinkled. Paint. The smell of it was coming from his multi-colored paws. He had a rolled canvas in them.
"You are always in trouble," I said.
Ratatosk wailed, "So unfair. Trying I was to make Siv and thee laugh. See? I call it 'I have no nose, and I must sneeze!'"
It was a Picasso-like profile of me without a nose. I sighed.
I double-sighed when I recognized the untouched painting around the edges.
Ratatosk had painted over one of Siv Maria's paintings.
"You painted over one of Siv's paintings to do this of me?!"
Ratatosk chittered gleefully and nodded vigorously.
"Yes, knew I did that thou wast worried over thy surgery. I thought this wouldst make thee and she laugh."
The ghost of Mark Twain sat down beside me. "Rat, you have the empathy of a hot rock!"
The ghost of Victor Frankl sat down beside Ratatosk. "No, my friends. There is healing to laughter if we but choose it."
He petted the Asgardian squirrel's head who tolerated it because the ghost was agreeing with him.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
between an event and an emotion.
And in that pause is the freedom to adjust our perspective and our interpretation of our situation.
It seems small. But it is rather substantial."
Ratatosk's eyes glazed over, and he began snoring like a tiny outboard motor as his furry face smacked the table top.
His head snapped up and he snickered, "Boooring!"
"On the other hand," scowled Frankl, "the rat may just be without a brain."
Watching Victor Frankl rise and fade away into Meilori's shadows, Mark Twain grinned, "And the pig got up and slowly walked away."
But I knew what Victor Frankl meant:
We are born with the gift of laughter, and if we also early recognize that the world is mad, so much the better.
Laughing does many wonderful things for us:
- Boost the immune system and circulatory system
- Enhance oxygen intake
- Stimulate the heart and lungs
- Relax muscles throughout the body
- Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
- Ease digestion/soothes stomach aches
- Relieve pain
- Balance blood pressure
- Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)
- Blood flow.
After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally -- expanding and contracting easily.
But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
- Immune response.
- Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response.
- Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.
- Blood sugar levels.
- One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.
- Relaxation and sleep.
- The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin's memoir, Anatomy of an Illness.
- Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better.
- He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
- Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone.
All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play also adds joy, vitality, and resilience.
And humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts.
Laughter unites people during difficult times.
Incorporating more humor and play into your daily interactions can improve the quality of your love relationships—
as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends. Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:
- Let go of defensiveness.
- Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
- Release inhibitions.
Here are some ways to start:
- Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, it’s contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy,” find it’s possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event.
- Count your blessings.
- Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter.
- When you’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.
- When you hear laughter, move toward it.
- Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not.
- More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “What’s funny?”
- Spend time with fun, playful people.
- These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
- Bring humor into conversations.
- Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”
HOW OFTEN DO YOU LAUGH?
DO YOU SEEK IT OUT?
DOES IT SEEK YOU OUT LIKE RATATOSK