Have you laughed yet today? If not, time to get your laugh on. Here’s why.
The adage, laughter is the best medicine has never been put to the test more than it has now. And I’ve found that the people who have weathered the pandemic storm the best over the past two years, have been more lighthearted and optimistic than those who have been trying to swim against the current. That’s just exhausting.
Adopting a lighthearted disposition to life doesn’t mean that you don’t care about things. It just means that once you train that adaptive and resiliency muscle, you’re better able to react in a calm and hopeful manner, bringing light and levity to the situation. To me, laughter is one of the best mental health first aid solutions during uncertain times.
In the February issue of my monthly newsletter Joy Matters, I relayed a story from my book Being Joy™ about Norman Cousins, the American author, professor, and political journalist, who was diagnosed with a severe inflammatory disease and was not expected to recover. In constant pain, he decided to try a different approach to healing. He chose laughter.
He watched hours of funny movies and listened to funny stories. With just ten minutes of laughter, he reported that he could have two hours of pain-free sleep. As Cousins said, “Laughter is just inner jogging.”
Scientists and other experts agree that laughter is a legitimate form of therapy as can be seen by the many children’s hospitals and wellness centres that have introduced laughter therapy as a respected addition to their therapeutic toolbox.
So today, I’m going to tell you about five of my favourite storytelling authors that know how to tickle my funny bone and strengthen my lighthearted muscle.
If you’re not familiar with him, he is best known as the creator of the Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion, which he hosted from 1974 to 2016. I was first introduced to him in the early ‘90’s as I listened to his stories on cassette tape. They were smart, family-friendly and some of the best storytelling I’ve heard till this day. His show and books are mostly about characters who live in a fictional town called Lake Wobegon where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” You can probably find the stories on CDs these days and his books are still in print, so I would strongly encourage you to partake in some home-spun humour.
I can’t remember how I discovered him, but once I did, I’ve read every book he’s written. He was editor at large at Esquire Magazine and has written for the New York Times and other mainstream publications throughout his career. Some of my favourites are The Know-It-All, when he tells about his journey reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover in his quest to learn everything in the world! Another great one is The Year of Living Bionically where he writes about following every single rule of the Bible including growing his hair and beard, much to his wife’s dismay. And he has a few more that will keep you in stitches including Drop Dead Healthy and The Guinea Pig Diaries. You can imagine what they are about.
Now for some talent north of the border.
One of the funniest storytellers I know (and he’s a Calgary boy too!) is Will Ferguson, a travel journalist who was awarded the Leacock Medal of Humour three times and all well deserved. The first book I read of his was How to be a Canadian which got me hooked. I devoured everything after that including Hitching Rides with Buddha, Canadian Pie, and Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw to name just a few. If you are a Canadian, I think it’s your civic duty to read his books – they will keep you laughing out loud!
I loved Rick’s sharp wit and satirical humour when he was on television over the years with the Mercer Report and his comedy special Talking to Americans. And I treated myself to a copy of his new book this Christmas – Talking to Canadians which I have just started and can’t wait to get into it. On the back of the book jacket, Jann Arden, one of our funniest Canadian artists (she should write a book – we need some funny books written by Canadian women), wrote, “I laughed so much reading this, I kept waking up my dog in bed. Rick is a determined writer – he never stops pulling you into his stories and he never stops looking for the punchline in everyday life. He made me realize how funny ordinary things are, how funny and how incredibly interesting. It’s heartfelt and honest and generous and edgy – just like Mercer himself. Read it! It’s fabulous!”
And the last of my five faves is Stuart McLean who sadly we lost in 2017. Stuart was a Canadian radio broadcaster, humorist, monologist, and author, best known as the host of the CBC Radio program The Vinyl Cafe. Not only did I enjoy his radio show, stories on tape and book, but I was privileged to see his live program at a concert hall in Calgary as well as at a private gathering hosted by a Calgary charity many years ago. Both are treasured memories that still make me smile to this day.
There you have it. My funny book list. I also love funny movies and don’t watch near enough of them it seems. So if movies are your jam, I’m sure you can find the right ones to lighten your heart.
I encourage you to find one thing each day that makes you laugh. A book, a movie, a silly cat video or clips of babies laughing. Whatever it is, make sure it stimulates a good belly laugh – the kind that makes you cry. Those are the most healing I find. And that my friend, is joyful living.
Love and laughter from your Joy Mama,
P.S. Want more joy and laughter in your life? If you don’t already have a copy of my book, you can purchase a copy for yourself or to give one to a friend or family member who might be struggling right now. You’ll be helping to spread the important message of joyful living with someone who needs some light in their life.
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Image from Pixabay.