51. Practise Laughter

Good morning and welcome to your fifty-first meditation. Mayo Clinic tells us it reduces stress, improves our immune system, and it can be an effective pain-killer. It enhances our mood, raises our self-esteem, improves our ability to cope with difficult situations, and contributes to our overall happiness and satisfaction with life. Oh, and it’s free, readily available, and has no negative side-effects. What could this miracle drug be? The answer is the same as it is for a surprising number of life’s problems: laughter. 

Of course, we all laugh. No one needs a podcast to teach them how to do it. It’s just that sometimes we forget to laugh. We become too occupied with all the seriousness of life and lose sight of the vital role that laughter plays in our well-being and happiness. You may be saying, ‘but isn’t laughter involuntary? I can’t choose when I laugh and when I don’t’. 

But this isn’t entirely true. There are some very effective ways that can help you ensure that you laugh more. The first is to actively seek out funny stuff. The function of comedy is not only to make us laugh in the moment, it is also to give us a humorous lens through which we can view life. This means that watching or hearing good comedy pays dividends. It gives you real-time laughter, but also gives you a vocabulary for laughter. You learn how to see things as funny, that might otherwise have seemed mundane. 

Second, you have to laugh at yourself. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take yourself seriously. You should do that too. But you should have a healthy sense of the cosmic absurdity of you doing so. We get so invested in ourselves, our lives, our ideas, our problems, that we can forget how hilariously grandiose we are being. We are, after all, cosmically negligible grains of dust, being stirred up by a slight breeze, getting exercised about our insignificant dust dramas. It’s as it should be, but it’s also funny!

Finally, each one of us has the power to choose the attitude with which we face the world. We can choose a kind of paranoid vigilance, where we are constantly lying in ambush, ready to pounce on whoever might say or do something that doesn’t perfectly align with our own values. Or we can choose to have a good belly-laugh at how incredibly arrogant it would be to think that the world should reflect our own values back at us. We should all care about social justice, and do our best to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy equal rights and feel safe. But we must also remember that comedy and satire are excellent tools for challenging and deconstructing the status quo. And so we should be careful that before denouncing humour as unjust, or unfair, or harmful, we make sure that we are not stomping down the rich, fertile soil out of which social change can grow that good comedy so often provides. We had also better make sure that we are not unnecessarily depriving ourselves or anyone else of laughter, as this would be deleterious to everyone’s health as we’ve seen. And assuming an attitude of paranoid vigilance is doubtless a stressful way to live; those of us who do live that way could likely use the health benefits of this miracle drug the most. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful and hilarious day.

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