When was the last time you laughed? I mean really laughed. Proverbs says that a happy heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Prov. 17:22)
So how do you start? How can you infuse your day-to-day life with laughter and humor? Here are a few ideas to get you on the right path.
(1) Watch comedians live. It’s endearing to see someone be bold and share personal information about their toenails and ex-boyfriends in a way that makes you laugh. I am always and exceedingly proud of people for getting up there. I’m a wonderful audience member because I’ll always smile and laugh and I never give haughty looks unless the comedy turns ugly and hateful. Because I’m forgiving of bad jokes and nervous energy and uncomfortable silence and forgotten bits. I’m like the mother at a basketball game who’s cheering and pumping her fist and saying “WRONG WAY, DEE DEE!” and after we all go out to celebrate with ice cream. I’m the queen of supportive. Unless it gets flat-out mean. I am not forgiving of hate speech disguised as comedy.
(2) Look at everyday things in a different way. Today, I told myself I had to find something humorous on a road sign. Because road signs are so naturally interesting. Well LO AND BEHOLD there was a sign posted about not texting and driving, and the picture of the phone was an old blackberry with an antenna. And I thought how funny that we are supposed to take the state seriously if they still believe we are talking on phones with antennas. I remember when people would slam that antenna down after a frustrating call, like “TAKE THAT, AOL CUSTOMER SERVICE.” Those phones didn’t even have texting capabilities. There were only three cell towers in America and women were still wearing shoulder pads. Look around you. Is there something about your house, your car, your hair, the way your dog pees? Surely there is something routine that you can look at differently and find the humor in.
(3) Imagine pain itself, or a painful experience, as something you can put in a box. Then create funny or ironic or sarcastic things to say about this painful thing. Name it. Maybe your pain is Myrtle or Hairy. Then say all the funny or sarcastic things to its face and realize that suddenly, you have power over it. This thing doesn’t rule you. It’s in a box for heaven’s sakes. It has an unfortunate name that rhymes with turtle. Who can take that seriously?
(4) Read funny things. I can’t highlight this enough. Don’t try to imitate these people, or wish you were like these people, or try to copycat these people. That’s creepy and covetous and is a trail to nowhere. Just enjoy reading their funny words. Applaud their talent, and encourage them. Buy their stuff and go to their shows or readings and seek out words that make you laugh. David Sedaris, Anne Lamott, and Dave Barry got me through many hard days. Put these words in your life because it reminds you how to take life less seriously.
(5) Encourage and solicit friendships that truly make you laugh. I know this sounds obvious, or mean, like you need to weed out Stacey because all she does is talk about her work drama and she’s a drag. I mean who cares about the fact that she got scolded by her mid-level manager in the accounting firm. But it’s true. Funny friends are important. (And don’t actually unfriend Stacey, poor thing. Just take her out drinking. She’s under a lot of stress). If you have friends who make you laugh, you should schedule time with them. It’s like a kale smoothie – being with friends who uplift you and make you smile is good for your body and doesn’t make you want to vomit.
(6) Turn anger into humor. This world is filled with a lot of things that make me angry. For example: Trump’s limited vocabulary, bad drivers, our lack of compassion as a nation for those unlike us, pushy girl scouts, crappy coffee, people who misrepresent faith as being an elite club only for the good people, Trump’s lips, when neighbors drive fast down my little country road, and when my car smells like rotten milk. Okay maybe I’m overreacting about the Girl Scouts. However, we must turn these things that infuriate us into something that makes us laugh. Why? Not because we are minimizing them, but because we have to find a way to cope with them. Humor is the only way I’ve found to deal with anger in a way that doesn’t lead to alcoholism or jail time. Let’s hear it. What makes you angry, and how can you make that funny?
(7) Only watch good-quality television. I realize this may sound like an oxymoron, but there is so much smart television out there right now. Don’t let yourself fall for some cheap laugh-track crap that just fills your mind with junk. Search out shows that play on words, use physical humor, have underlying themes that resonate, and fill your mind with joy. That being said, if some stupid show makes you exceedingly happy, resulting in you humming all afternoon and baking scones, FINE. Ignore this advice completely and keep watching. Because what the hell do I know.
(8) Don’t attack people personally for their belief systems. Make fun of things, general issues, yourself (always fair game), Vanilla Ice, long catholic weddings, and any of the Kardashians. But don’t make it personal. We need to see humor as a connector amongst us. It’s a great unifier between the redneck cowboy with the elitist city dweller. Let’s use it for good, not evil.
(9) Allow yourself to be serious. People who try to be funny all the time are annoying at worst, creepy at best. You have to learn the ying and the yang, become familiar with the serious and the frivolous, so allow yourself to feel all the emotions of life. The funniest people I know aren’t always wise-cracking. They are introspective, creative, ambitious, invested in their communities, and wise. There is a scene in Steel Magnolias where Sally Fields is crying after the death of her daughter, and when I say crying I mean sobbing because HELLO SALLY FIELDS I LOVE YOU and she says “I just want to hit someone! Something! Anything!” And then her dear friend Olympia Dukakis throws Shirley MacLaine in her face and says “HIT HER!” And in the midst of great sadness and seriousness and tears streaming down Sally’s face, what do you see? Humor. And it’s brilliant.
(10) Spent time around children. They are truly wonderful little people without all the cynicism and baggage of adults. If you don’t have children, you should borrow some. Pay close attention to how they look at life, the questions they ask, and write down the funny things they say. They will always put you in a better mood, unless they are three or ten or going through puberty. Then you should avoid them at all costs, run quickly the other way, pretend you don’t know them, say you are just the pizza delivery person, and revert back to some other advice above.
Most of all, allow yourself to laugh. Find joy in all things. Proverbs says that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. 17:22 So go forth and make it a priority to infuse laughter and humor into your routines. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to humanity. You owe your friend money and your mother a return telephone call too, but who’s counting.