Have you discovered something lighthearted today? Lately I have found that one of the surest ways to maintain sanity is to keep a sense of humor. Given the challenges in the world around us and the troubles we face personally, it often seems that lightheartedness and levity are as far away as the moon. Certainly there are times when no matter how hard we try, we cannot find anything to laugh about. But if we open ourselves up to more humorous moments, we can enjoy many benefits of laughter in our everyday lives.
Humor that makes life better is not mean-spirited or meant to attack someone personally. In our house, it is the parents trying to keep up with the technologically savvy young people. We say standard parental things like, “When we were kids, there was no remote, we actually had to get up and change the channels. Or if there was a remote, it didn’t have five million buttons on it.” We get the standard young person response, “Did you even HAVE TVs way back then?” One of our kids recently managed to snag a separate TV remote while we were trying to change the channels with the universal one. Pretty soon the TV was going off and on, muting and turning to channels we had not selected, thanks to the prankster hiding in the other room. These things are funny, if we can remember to lighten up. If we focus on frustration because we were inconvenienced or out-dueled by a quick-thinking younger, everyone ends up tense. If we acknowledge the humor, we can model how to take ourselves less seriously and maybe even encourage them to laugh at themselves when the opportunity comes.
Healthy humor involves a playful look at human nature that can help others keep things in perspective. During our teenagers’ early driving years, they mentioned the “rustic” nature of the car they would be driving, naturally preferring a newer model as many of their friends would have. After taking the teenagers out for practice drives and parking, my husband pointed the keys in the direction of the car and made an obnoxious sound meant to mimic automatic locks, which the older car most certainly did not have. We received some interesting glances from strangers, he managed to poke a little fun at the self-conscious tendencies of teens, and they learned not to mention the hand crank windows again.
Many times we see the lighthearted nature of situations more clearly after a little time goes by. Since she is perfectly healthy, it is now pretty amusing that our dog managed to nose open the pantry door and help herself to a box of Pop-Tarts. Since he did not escape, it is fairly funny that the pet lizard was clinging to the tree when we removed it in the middle of the night while trying to evict chirping crickets. Sharing these stories after the fact helps us remember that some of the daily issues going on now have the potential to make us laugh, especially if we are all healthy and accounted for when we look back on life’s crazy moments.
Humor can help us find balance when everyday life seems weighted with worries. My youngest son reminded me of this when we called his older brother to see how the first few days of college were going. I asked about eating, sleeping, studying, friends – all the typical adjustment areas I anticipated could be difficult. At first I was annoyed when my younger son, having discovered we had video on the phone and could see each other during the call, started jumping around wildly and making outrageously goofy faces at his brother. I thought it would disrupt the important talk we were having. Then I noticed my college student visibly relax and start to crack up at his brother’s antics. I realized there is only so far a serious approach will get you; sometimes it is easier to navigate through uncharted territory if there is a silly face telling us to loosen our grip on the wheel.
Laura B. joined Empathia in 2000 as an EAP Counselor. Laura has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with a concentration in marriage and family therapy. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked as a case manager with chronically mentally ill adults readjusting to life in the community. Laura enjoys reading, attending kids’ activities and spending time with family.