Friday, November 13, 2009

The Joy Diet - Laughter

Now really, once you take a look at this picture of the man I live with, do you think I needed this chapter? Martha Beck suggests that you laugh at least 30 times a day as part of her Joy Diet. Piece of cake!

I had the good fortune years ago to interview and hire a colleague where I worked who had laughter down to a science. She had set up humor carts in hospitals where she'd worked. She had countless tricks - things she'd learned, things she'd made up - to keep the department, patients, students not only laughing but coming up with creative ways to solve problems. It was exposure to her that got me going to the Humor Project's Laughter and Creativity Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. Even after she moved away we'd still meet there. It was a terrific education for me.

I come from a family who likes to laugh anyway. It's often how we cope with the fact that we have some big differences in the way we think. When we can find things to laugh about together, we know how much we care for each other, and it reminds us we are so much more than our opinions. But actually learning more about laughter and how to facilitate it in certain situations made it a much more intentional activity. And as Martha points out, it multiplies exponentially.

One of my favorite props is the red sponge nose. They're small and light enough that you can ambush groups with bags of them. I met a CEO who kept one in his briefcase. If a board meeting got too contentious, he'd bend over as if to get a tissue or something and come back up to the table with his nose on. While the attention of the group was focussed on the ones arguing, he'd sit patiently till someone noticed and the bickering would stop dead.

I love to play with the noses. When my niece got married, I brought a couple of bags of them and passed them out to people at the reception. Suddenly everyone was dancing with red noses, making conversation with folks they didn't know, and the fun just kicked up a few notches.

Years ago I was laid off from a job that I'd had for 9 years. There was a large restructuring in the hospital and a lot of people's jobs disappeared. It was a very traumatic event. I'd never quite understood how awful that can feel - that when you've worked hard and done a good job, you can still be so vulnerable. You feel such rejection. The method they chose to tell the employees who were to leave was humiliating - they called you in, asked you to turn in your passwords, etc., and you were escorted to your car. My co-worker who had the same level position as I did was called in first and came back crying, saying "I don't have a job." We were both trying to absorb that information when they called me in - and I, too, was gone. I'd just come back from the Humor Conference a week or so before that. And I think the effects from being there were what helped me get through that period with some grace. To begin with, I suggested to Janet that we go to Mohonk - a gorgeous place to hike. It was 10 am, the most beautiful late spring day, and rather than go home alone and sit and mope, we decided to take advantage of the fact that we were free to do what we wanted. We hiked, we groused, we stewed, and we laughed that day. Of all the surrounding memories, that's my favorite.

When my husband's brother died suddenly at 48, it was the laughter that started everyone on their journeys to healing. Chris had left us with lots of memories that we could share with tears running down our faces - because they were so funny.

My grandchildren keep me laughing; each one has given us some priceless stories that have become part of the family lore. The four year old alone, pictured, keeps me well above the threshold of 30 laughs per day.

I'm intrigued by the HoHoHaHaHa yoga. Maybe I'll check that out.

I hope you're getting your daily dose of mirth. You might want to check out the Humor Conference Website:

And to read my Joy Diet companions' responses to this menu item take a look at Jamie Ridler's blog:


  1. I'm sorry about the layout of this - can't get the picture of my grandson where I want it, and don't want the spaces so big between the paragraphs, but when I tried to edit it, it wouldn't cooperate. So here it is.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Yes I know these belly laughs that drives you so hard to tears, that you can't see anything.
    I love that too!
    These are the moments in life, when everything seems so light and so easy.
    And I always have to smile, when I hear my daughter laughing. There is nothing that sounds so wonderful, than the joyful laughter of children.

  3. Just reading your post made me smile and at times giggle. Thanks for providing a little extra laughter in my day!

  4. I loved reading your post. I smiled thinking of everyone wearing red noses and dancing. What a wonderful way to get to know people and what terrific memories you created for everyone that day.

  5. Thanks much for your well wishes, Becky! I'm much more human tonight - coming back from my few days on planet flubug :)

    I loooooove this post! So many ways you have laughter in your life -- and your husband looks incredibly handsome with his ears on like that! Have never heard of Humor Conferences before -- what a brilliant thing. Will surf over and check that out for sure. As I was reading I kept thinking that it would be an incredible life for me to do work where in any given year I attended both the MISS grief conferences and this groups Humor conferences! Hmmm...

    Thank you!
    Miracles to you...

  6. Great post! I love the stories of the noses! I wish I had someone in my life who consciously incorporated laughter.

  7. Thank you for sharing what makes you laugh!

  8. love this post. laughter makes everything better. sending you lots of love, laughs & hugs!!

  9. What an honest, captivating story. I can't begin to know hwat you went through, but humour sure has helped you in many ways.
    May you always be blessed with love and laughter.

  10. Great pictures! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    Laugh big; laugh out loud!

  11. I may well try the nose idea as I am often in stressful meetings and a good laugh would be wonderful.

    I am also going to check out the movies you mentioned when commenting on my post...thank you for sharing.

  12. enjoy to read you, thanks for the comment so helpfull on my blog

  13. i enjoy reading your's cool to see what your thoughts are!

    i LOVE that picture of Al!! LOL thanks for my first good laugh of the day. well, actually, my second. Marcus was in a great mood this morning so that's always good for a few laughs before he gets to school. ask Marcus to sing the "we will, we will rock you" song... quite entertaining!

  14. Hey Ma! I have 2 accounts on here now...but that Teah account with AIM wasn't working. Delete it if you can, but keep the Teah426 account.