The other night a friend of mine told me on his radio show that he’d never met anyone who laughed as much as me. I must say, I have been accused of this many times before. In fact, sometimes the people at work wonder what I am doing in my office with patients as the peels of laughter can be heard all the way down the hall. When they ask, I just respond by saying, “Don’t I have the best job in the world? I get to laugh everyday!” You might think that being a psychologist and listening to people’s difficulties is serious business, but sometimes a good laugh can be just what the doctor ordered.
So, I am aware that I laugh a lot and that I enjoy sharing laughter with others. But, I have to admit I was a little stumped when my friend asked me an interesting question to follow his initial observation, “Why are you able to laugh so often?” The question caught me by surprise. As I said, I know I laugh a lot, but I never really thought about why. I told him, it was because I tend not to take things too seriously and that I am able to find amusement in most situations.
The question stuck with me though, and the next day I decided to ask an expert…my friend Glen, who laughs even more than I do! He reminded me of something that I had forgotten, but that is very true. We laugh, because we choose to look at the lighter side of things. It’s not that we don’t have troubles or difficulties in our lives – we do, just like everyone else does – but we choose to focus on that which makes us smile or laugh. I learned early in life, not to take so many things to heart. In fact, it was through facing the difficulties, like being teased and bullied, that I learned to take things less personally and smile through it. It just felt so much better and made it easier to take. We forget this sometimes though, as we get older. It’s can be so easy to get caught up in the seriousness of life, or to take everything personally. But if you try, it’s really not that hard to get caught up in the silliness of it too!
It just feels so good to laugh, doesn’t it? It’s contagious, as well. My grandmother used to be a little on the cranky side. She actually used to make me cry. Then one day when I was in my late 20’s I decided to use a different approach when she would say something cranky and negative. I would say, “Oh Grandma, you’re so funny!” as if she was making a joke. In my mind I was thinking “she couldn’t possibly mean this, she must just being feeling badly.” And you know what? It worked. Soon we were laughing together all the time. Previously I had chosen to cry, but I gotta tell ya, once I made the choice to laugh instead it was so much better for the both of us!
Are you willing to try an experiment. Next time you face a difficult situation, or someone says something to hurt your feelings, could you challenge yourself to try to look at the situation from another perspective. You could try what I did with Grandma or perhaps you could even tease yourself a little. I myself am fond of referring to myself as a “dork” (my son likes to call me “Dorkzilla”). Is it that I really think I’m a dork? Well, maybe a little, but really I call myself a dork so that I remind myself not to take myself so seriously. I face so much seriousness everyday, that if I don’t force myself to lighten up, it will weigh me down and overwhelm me. If that happens how can I continue to help others? So I laugh, I tease, I joke, I cajole. I try to do it lovingly and with kindness, but I try to teach those I work with to laugh at themselves too.
The trick is, the laugh has to be genuine. I personally dislike those classes where they ask you to think of something funny from the past to force a laugh in the present. The only way I am able to laugh in those classes is to focus on the ridiculousness of the situation at hand – then I’m laughing with the rest of them! However, you choose to do it is fine. What we choose to laugh at is very personal. All I’m suggesting is that you choose to laugh. A giggle a day might just keep the doctor away…so, try it…and let me know what you think!
Be happy and well,
Sari Roth-Roemer, Ph.D. (aka “Dorkzilla”)