Laughter as medicine

laughterLast weekend I had the good fortune to see a stand up comic with a difference, Mark McConville. Mark has been a stand up comic for more than 15 years but for a number of years now he’s been studying the field of suicidology and the positive impact laughter can make on a person’s mental state.

This guy is seriously funny. I was in stitches. But his stand up comic routine comes with a message about laughter being good for us. Happiness is good for us. And besides doing the funniest routine I’ve ever seen about sitting in an airplane exit row and looking for his lifejacket, he also invited those of us in the audience to think about a few questions in regards to our own lives.

Firstly, he asked us to think of five things that make us happy. It was surprising to me (maybe it shouldn’t have been) that most of us in the audience had at least three of the same things in our top five. Family, friends and travel topped the list for most people.

Then he explained that people who contemplate suicide feel they don’t have anything to look forward to. He asked us to think of something that we were looking forward to in the next 12-24 hours, the next 2-3 weeks and the next 2-3 months.

As I thought about the huge number of things I have to look forward to at this moment, I also remembered days where one blended into the other. Where I really couldn’t figure out a reason to get out of bed. If it hadn’t been for my three year old daughter at the time, I don’t know if I would be here today. She gave me hope. She gave me something to look forward to. Even though she didn’t realise it. She was the one thing that kept me tethered to this earth. My life was devoid of much laughter for a long time.

Twelve years on and my life is very different. That three year old is now 15 and she and her sister make me laugh every single day. I have also changed my life tremendously. I live in a place of gratitude, especially for all of the love and laughter in my life. I am aware there are many people who love me for who I am and even more importantly, I love the person I am today. I have good days and bad days but for the most part, I am happy.

So for the record, I thought I’d write some of the things that make me happy. (Not an inclusive list, just a top of consciousness at the moment.)

  1. The sound of my girls’ giggles and riotous laughter that can be heard in every room of our home. It’s even more fun when we are all laughing together.
  2. Hugs from my girls.
  3. Walking an hour a day with my dog Reg in the beautiful area near our house.
  4. The feeling of sunshine on my body – I love when the warmth penetrates all the way to my bones.
  5. Being at the beach – the feeling of sand underfoot whilst walking, watching the waves, feeling the salt spray on my face, seeing the kangaroos, watching for dolphins and whales.
  6. International travel – holding my passport and a ticket in my hand, knowing I can go anywhere on earth and have an adventure.
  7. Deep conversations with good friends.
  8. Snuggling in bed, warm and dry, whilst listening to the rain on the roof.
  9. Writing every day.
  10. Taking my first sip of my coffee each morning.
  11. Dancing to the radio – which usually either makes the girls laugh or embarrasses them, both of which make me laugh!
  12. Mastering something new – this morning I fixed my own washing machine and didn’t have to call a repairman!

And I realise I have so much to look forward to too.

In the next 2-3 days I am having lunch with one of my best friends who I haven’t seen in over a month, I’m going to yoga class and I’m spending lots of time with my gorgeous daughters. I’m counting on the fact that we’ll be laughing a lot in the next few days.

Next week I will be at the beach with one of my favourite people who has been my friend for more than 20 years. We don’t get to see each other nearly enough and I’m looking forward to long chats in front of the fire and long dog walks on the beach despite the chilly weather.

In the next 2-3 months I will be back in the U.S. for my parents’ wedding anniversary, catching up with family and friends and I’m starting to plan a camping trip to one of my favourite places next to Lake Superior.

If the old adage is correct and laughter is the best medicine, then I’m pretty confident that the next few months are going to be great for me and I’ll stay healthy. But what about you? What makes you happy or makes you laugh?

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