Why We Need To Laugh More, Even When Things Are Tough

When I was in junior high school I had a friend who was a Jehovah’s Witness. Being raised Greek Orthodox in a predominately Jewish neighborhood, I knew nothing about the Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. All I knew is that my friend carried her bible with her everywhere and told me the world was going to end in seven years.

I was terrified. My life had barely started and the world was going to end?

I came home and rushed to my father in a panic. He put down his cigarette, broke into a big smile, and started to laugh. He told me the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been saying that since he was a little boy and it still hadn’t happened. He told me not to worry, wrapped me in his arms, and in a few minutes had me laughing and convinced me that it was going to be okay.

Looking back I’m not sure even he believed himself. It wasn’t long after that conversation that Martin Luther King would be shot and killed followed later that same year by a similar fate for Bobby Kennedy. The world looked pretty bleak in 1968.

But my father knew that dwelling in anxiety over it was not going to help anything and it was not what he wanted to teach me. He wanted me to understand that laughter might not fix the problem, but it certainly helped to put things in perspective so you could move forward. Laughter was its own brand of medicine. Available to all, inexpensive with no harmful side effects.

Of course, the world did not end seven years later and while it sure can feel like we are headed towards doomsday right now, what strikes me is how little we’re remembering to laugh.

At the circumstances.

At ourselves.

Really laugh.

Belly laugh.

Some of you may be reading this and wondering how you can laugh when we are three years into a global pandemic and it is becoming increasingly evident that there was a coordinated attempt to overturn our government on January 6, 2021.

I am not saying it’s easy, but it is doable.

Laughter certainly won’t make the problems we have go away, but it shifts the energy from this dark narrative that we’re being bombarded with daily on both traditional and social media.

There is science to back up how laughter reduces stress levels — no doubt the reason it’s less stressful for me to get my daily news recap from Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel than it is from David Muir. As much as I like David, I find it fascinating that during ABC World News Tonight, each evening he and his team can only find one good thing that happened in the entire world that day to report on.

Just one good thing.

Globally.

And then they save it for the end — if you can manage to watch that long.

Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas have a wonderful, research-based Ted Talk on why great leaders need to use humor, how it can foster bonds, power, creativity, and resilience. It’s worth watching.

I’m not suggesting we can laugh away everything that needs fixing. We can’t. But we sure can find our sense of humor and create some more laughter to get our perspective back so we can start to get things back on track.

Originally published at https://joannetombrakos.com on January 25, 2022.

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Joanne Tombrakos

Calling myself a Storyteller since before it was trendy. I use story to teach, pitch, think and escape. Podcaster. Writer. NYU Prof. Follow@joannetombrakos