Assistant editor Dan Hoffman learns that a moment of laughter goes a long way toward breaking a bad mood.
Posted in , Jul 1, 2016
Humor is something I take pretty seriously. That might sound paradoxical, but I mean it: in my everyday life, humor is one of the important ways I stay positive. The cliché that laughter is a great medicine is true. Laughing has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and physical tension, boost the immune system and release mood-enhancing endorphins.
I experienced a little of the miraculous healing power of humor just last week. I’d had a rough day and by the end of it, was feeling down on myself. Even sitting in the park and watching the sunset did little to alleviate my foul mood. On the way back to my apartment, I decided to stop for a smoothie. Perhaps it would cheer me up.
While I was in line to order, my negative thoughts crept in: I felt unworthy of such an indulgence. Then came my turn, so I asked for a “power shake.”
A middle-aged woman behind me ordered a power shake too, and her husband jokingly chided her about the calories, since she hadn’t exercised that day. “I’m going tomorrow morning at 6:30, so it counts,” she laughed. That made me chuckle a little.
The smoothie shop employee was in a chipper mood. “Here’s your power,” he said to me, handing me my shake. “That’ll be six dollars for your power. Six dollars of power here.”
“You got a power too?” the woman behind me asked.
“Yeah, I’m going to the gym tomorrow also, so I earned it,” I said. All three of us laughed.
I’d come in for a mood-boosting smoothie—but it was the unexpected laughter that lifted my spirits. A few jokes, and the negative train of thoughts running through my head abruptly stopped. Our banter made me realize the absurdity of doubting whether I was worthy of something that I would enjoy. The woman and I were mocking our tendency to be too hard on ourselves.
Sigmund Freud aptly said that humor is our refusal to let our lives make us suffer.
But beyond that, I think there’s a kind of divine inspiration in these humorous moments–they arise spontaneously, and we react almost without thinking. In doing so we connect to the powerful urge we all have to see things from a more positive perspective.
There was definitely something serendipitous about my encounter with the married couple. They came in just when I needed a little laughter in my life. Who knows what the exchange did for them? Maybe they needed it just as much as I did.
Has a moment of laughter been healing for you? Share your story here.