Should I ever wake up some morning and think, “I guess it’s time to get a job,” I know exactly how I’ll abort that thought. I’ll just get in my car and head for the nearest freeway. A few minutes spent in rush hour traffic would certainly bring me back to my senses. It’s not just the slowness of heavy traffic that annoys me: the behavior of my fellow drivers is one of the few things guaranteed to make me lose my cool. No thoughts of universal oneness and love of humanity surface when I’m spending time in traffic.
Shortly after being inspired by Marianne Williamson’s Everyday Grace, I decided to try a new approach. When a fellow driver would threaten my life, I’d send them a silent blessing and then say a short prayer that went something like, “Dear Lord, please send that person better driving skills.”
I figured there was a hidden opportunity here to start shaping up all the folks who didn’t bother using their turn signals or who were distracted by a fascinating phone conversation. It calmed me a little as I recalled the Biblical admonition to pray without ceasing and realized that bad drivers were propelling me to a constant state of prayer. I had no idea that another weapon awaited me.
A few years ago, an adult ed center where I taught on occasion, had an open house. I decided to sit in on the Laughter Workshop taught by Kim McIntyre Cannold. After all, I love to laugh and I thought it would be fun. I didn’t expect to learn something so amazing, something that has proved invaluable already—especially in traffic.
Cannold, who is certified by the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, opened her workshop by talking about the different kinds of laughter and had us all try out various types from tittering to belly laughing. Then she boldly suggested that we could schedule a laugh fest every day and simply laugh our heads off for no reason other than it would improve our emotional and physical well-being.
That was news to me. Laughing for the sake of laughing? While laughing as a healing agent has long been known, I’d never heard it suggested that we could just laugh without any outside stimulus.
Then she went even farther and asked us to list things that bugged us. Bad drivers headed the group list. She proposed that when we found ourselves in those normally upsetting situations that we abandon our usual angry reaction and laugh instead. This seemed a bit over the top to me, but I decided to give it a whirl.
The next time a driver cut me off, I decided to laugh, although it seemed a bit hypocritical. To my astonishment, it felt great. It felt much better than fuming to myself, which didn’t change the situation. Laughing didn’t change the other driver’s behavior, either, (and I figured my prayers might take a little longer to be answered), but it sure changed me. It was obvious hat the one who laughs gets the reward.
If you’d like to expand the amount of laughter in your life, here are some ideas that can help.
° Memorize this quote. Ernest Hemingway said, “The seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who can laugh in life the seeds are covered with better soil and a higher grade of manure.”
° Meet my friend Karyn Ruth. The most hilarious trip I ever took was the London adventure I shared with Karyn Ruth White. We both recall it as a week of nonstop laughter. If she’s not available to accompany you on a trip, order her Laughing in the Face of Stress or (my favorite) Kiss My Botox CDs or her book, Your Seventh Sense: How to Think Like a Comedian. She’s a seriously funny woman.
° Meet Annette Goodheart. The first laughter therapist I ever heard of was Dr. Goodheart whose adult ed classes in her hometown of Santa Barbara had long waiting lists. Dr. Goodheart calls laughter ‘Portable Therapy’ and points out that its benefits include: strengthens your immune system, helps you think more clearly, replenishes creativity, releases emotional pain, it’s free. She’s got a great Web site with several surprising features.
° Read something funny. There aren’t a lot of authors that make me laugh out loud, but one who does is Bill Bryson. His travel books are especially hilarious. I’m fond of Neither Here Nor There, although any of his books is bound to produce a giggle or guffaw. You don’t have to be a Minnesotan to find the Pretty Good Joke Book from Prairie Home Companion pretty darn funny.
Laughter is certainly important for the entrepreneurial life. Look for the funny side and you’ll discover there’s no shortage of goofiness to help you meet your daily quota of laughs. Be bold and test it for yourself. It’s medicine that doesn’t require a prescription.
As anyone knows who has attended one of my special events, there’s always a lot of laughter going on. I’m confident that Follow Through Camp will be no exception. While we are working to get ideas and dreams on track and moving ahead, we’ll find plenty to laugh about. There’s still time to join us, but you need to hurry or you’ll miss out. That would not be funny.