By Mary Reitano

Spring and summer can be wonderful times to enjoy laughter.  The weather improves, people play outdoors, take vacations, relax, and spend time with family and friends.  Victor Hugo wrote that “laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”  Think about the delightful laughter of a baby being tickled; silly giggles of little girls playing; a man’s hearty, invigorating belly laugh; or the hysterical, uncontrollable laughter of brothers and sisters.  “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere” (Dr. Seuss).  The ability to laugh indicates we have perspective–we do not take ourselves or life too seriously.  “If laughter cannot solve your problems, it will definitely DISSOLVE your problems; so that you can think clearly what to do about them” (Dr. Madan Kataria).

Laughter has physical and emotional benefits.  Mayo Clinic wrote that laughter stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles, and increase endorphins.  It can stimulate circulation, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, which then subside, resulting in a good, relaxed feeling.  Long-term, it can improve your immune system, and relieve pain.  Robinson, Smith and Segal (HelpGuide.org) wrote in “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” that it improves mood, diffuses conflict, enhances teamwork, and strengthens relationships. “Laughter connects you with people.  It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance…when you’re just howling with laughter” (John Cleese).  Experts have written that humor can be a key in romantic attraction.  However, humor can be destructive as well.  Humor which belittles others often makes people feel uncomfortable and should be avoided.

While laughter often occurs spontaneously, we can stimulate laughter.  We can play games, especially those that are not TOO competitive.  Spend time with children, who seem to have a natural ability to laugh.  Play with your pets.  Watch comedy or funny movies on the internet or TV.  And sometimes, try being silly once in a while!  Golfers often appreciate the humor of David Feherty.  Some people enjoy talk show hosts like Jimmy Fallon.  Ending your day with a humorous perspective can make it easier to sleep at night.  Comedienne Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live maintained her sense of humor at all times.  She said “Cancer is probably the unfunniest thing in the world, but I’m a comedian, and even cancer couldn’t stop me from seeing the humor in what I went through.” Bob Hope used to cheer up American troops overseas with his humor in the midst of a war zone.

We cannot wait until life’s challenges like war and illness go away before we laugh, because they will always be with us.  Humor is a powerful tool to help us survive difficult times, along with positive qualities like hope, love, faith and resilience.  Viktor Frankl, survivor of a Nazi concentration camp wrote, “I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable.”

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”  e.e. cummings

Mary Reitano is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate focusing on positive psychology and a holistic approach that addresses emotional, relational, mental, physical and spiritual health.