My younger son was about a year and a half old when I walked into our kitchen to find him sitting in a huge puddle of ketchup. He had emptied almost an entire plastic squeeze bottle of the stuff out onto the floor. I was just about to reprimand him when he looked up at me with his big brown eyes, smiled sweetly, and caroled, “Fries please!” My anger dissipated immediately and I burst out laughing.
Robert Provine, whose New York Times obituary credits him with creating the modern science of humor, once said laughter is the perfect way to deflect anger. If other people in a tense situation join in, the risk of confrontation will almost certainly dissipate. My husband is a master of this technique. He often uses his dry humor to ease the tension between us when we’ve had an argument.
A Mayo Clinic report says laughter improves your immune system, stimulates heart and lung circulation, lowers blood pressure, can relieve pain, and reduces anxiety. Psychologists are finding that people who laugh have more hope, energy, creativity, and a deeper connection with other human beings. Remember that 1998 movie Patch Adams? Robin Williams plays the role of a real-life doctor who used laughter to heal his patients.
I am fortunate to have good genes when it comes to laughter. My grandmothers both knew the value of a good laugh. My father’s mother had a witty one-liner for almost any situation. At my grandmother’s funeral, one of my cousins said, “When I think of grandma an image comes to mind of her whole body just shaking with laughter, her eyes brimming with tears and her teeth on the verge of falling out. She is laughing at a funny comment, probably one she made herself. “
My maternal grandmother loved to laugh as well. I can remember times when she and her daughters would start telling funny stories and get so carried away they simply couldn’t stop laughing. They would be holding their sides, tears streaming down their faces as they recalled some humorous incident from their family’s past.
Neither of my grandmothers had easy lives. But I think they must have known as writer Madeleine L’Engle once said that a good laugh heals a lot of hurts.