Isn’t this supposed to be the season to be jolly—full of holiday parties and family gatherings? Then why are the people I know so grumpy? To bring a little bliss back when it was intended, I’ve decided to give the gift of laughter this year. Grinches—and your stress and arguments—be gone!
Laughter, and the merriment that comes because of it, is one of our greatest nonmaterial gifts. What good is a present that we don’t use? (And the fruitcakes at Christmas, better left uneaten, don’t count.) I understand that there are times when your problems and concerns are so overwhelming that it feels inappropriate to laugh, you just don’t want to laugh or, for whatever reason, you just can’t find it in you. We’ve all been there.
But understand this: If, at any time, you’re feeling like you can’t find anything to laugh about, that’s exactly when you need it the most. Just as mourning and grieving are essential in order to heal, so, too, is our ability to step away from the chaos, craziness or pain, even if only for a few moments, to seek joy in other aspects of our lives.
You might be thinking, How can I laugh when I was just diagnosed with cancer? How can I find something funny when someone I love is going through such a tough time? or How can you expect me to laugh and enjoy my life when the economy is falling apart and I may lose my job at any time?
Well my friend, that’s when you’re supposed to. Laughter releases serotonin (“the happy hormone”) and relaxes you. It will help you sleep. It will help you find creative solutions to your problems. It will smooth difficult spots in your relationships (maybe those sometimes fatiguing family dinners!). And, perhaps best of all, it will prolong your life because, like research says, happier, positive people live longer.
Understand there is a difference between laughing at something that is serious and laughing off the fear it represents. And I believe that’s the No. 1 reason why we are given the gift of laughter. As Mark Twain said, “Not even fear can stand against the assault of laughter.” When you laugh in fear’s face, perception changes, negativity shifts and distress is abated.
If you’ve ever seen the old television series M*A*S*H, you’ve witnessed many examples of what it means to laugh off the fear. Hawkeye, played by Alan Alda, has his Humor Being working overtime while he’s in the operating room, exhausted, without proper medical supplies, explosions all around. Power is going on and off as his hands are in a soldier’s body and blood is spurting everywhere. In the midst of all of this chaos, what do we find him doing? That’s right. He’s cracking jokes. But, even so, he’s not negating the seriousness of the moment, not at all.
Hawkeye intuitively knows that his sense of humor is the only saving grace in a place where there seems to be so little hope. In this grim reality, his humor is giving him the strength, courage and emotional fortitude to get the job done—and save lives.
And before you dismiss my example as just television, M*A*S*H was actually based on the memoir of a real doctor who served during the Korean War. Twisted humor of all kinds is used as an emotional shield to protect the military and civilians alike in times of war, just as a helmet or a shelter is used to protect their physical selves from harm’s way.
On or off the battlefield, in business or in life, you have the power to turn around painful situations through laughter. If you can find humor in your situation, you can survive anything.
Laughter is the key to survival, and it’s your key to enjoying the holiday season, to thriving through whatever stress and chaos unwraps.
Jessica Krampe is the digital managing editor for SUCCESS.com. A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Jessica has worked for news, entertainment, business and lifestyle publications. Outside of the daily grind, she enjoys happy hours, live music and traveling.