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Laughter will help save us in the end, even during a pandemic

Even with social distancing and from behind a mask, smiles and laughter are contagions worth spreading

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Dayel McMullin laughs with Cedarwood Executive Director Jesse Buntjer as residents of the senior living community in Sandy take part in what staff members at the facility have nicknamed “recess” on Friday, April 24, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

With the challenges facing individuals, families, communities and our nation, a little laughter could go a long way. Abraham Lincoln remarked, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

Laughter lifts the heart, enlightens the mind and actually strengthens the soul. In our politically correct, and often divisive, world, we must never become so serious that we forget to laugh — especially at ourselves. A good joke, a funny prank, a silly story can all make a bad day good and a good day great.

A mentor of mine taught me, “Creating laughter is a noble quest and as long as no one gets hurt and there isn’t any property damage then it is a gift to both the receiver and giver.” The most memorable moments of our lives always include the laughter found in a good story, or the divine comedy we call daily living.

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter isn’t just a nice little pick-me-up, a pleasant distraction or the best medicine. It has real, long-term benefits. Laughter helps to:

  • “Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • “Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
  • “Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • “Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.”

I recently spent a week at the Casper cabin, established nearly 40 years ago by my wife Debbie’s parents, on Priest Lake in northern Idaho. This is always a precious week for me. It is a week where I always learn something new. This year the lesson was about laughter.

We had all of our children and our six grandchildren with us. The grandchildren include two 6-year-old grandsons, two 4-year-old grandsons and our very-fun-to-spoil granddaughters who are 12 and 3 months old. I found myself amazed at how often the grandchildren laughed. Even the youngest spent a good portion of the day smiling and laughing.

The four oldest — “the boys” — rarely stopped laughing. Whether they were building sand castles on the beach, playing lawn games or joining me for a walk into what became the “magic forest.” And even when they should have been more serious, they found reasons to laugh.

I found myself just watching them to see what would trigger the next wave of laughter. Often, the giggles were simply spontaneous. Sometimes they were sparked by a new word, a moment of wonder or an unexpected turn of events in their play. More often the laughter erupted as a response to a failure. Seeing the frisbee sail over the fence, popping the balloon on the ceiling, watching their sand fort get washed away — each resulted in raucous and shared laughter. I was amazed that without shame, discouragement or embarrassment, these young boys regularly laughed at their failures then immediately went forward with their activities.

I quickly recognized that I needed to incorporate more laughter in my daily life. In particular I knew I needed to more authentically chuckle at my foibles and failures. 

Laughter can be the leaven in the loaf and help us better deal with difficult days and trying times. Surely there are times to be serious and somber and sober. We seem to have had a lot of that lately. I am convinced that those who are dealing best with the pandemic, economic challenges and social unrest are those who can fully step forward into those challenging issues and also step back and with humor, love and laughter.

Even with social distancing and from behind a mask, smiles and laughter are contagions worth spreading. We really smile and laugh with our eyes and our souls, anyway.

Laughter can link generations, foster new friends, overcome interpersonal obstacles and bring out the best in everyone.

Khalil Gibran said it this way: “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” 

Lincoln was right that with all the strain we currently face in our world, it is laughter that will help save us in the end. Laughter is hopeful and forward-moving. The joy and happiness of laughter leads to love and that sisterhood and brotherhood that reminds us of our common humanity and reveals to us our inward divinity. 

An anonymous writer penned a model we all would be wise to incorporate into our daily living, “A little more laughter, a little less worry, a little more kindness, and a little less hurry.”