A guest post guaranteed to make you laugh by Frank McKinley.
Laughter is the Best Medicine & How It Saved My Life
When you’re down in the dumps, depressed, or just feeling blue, laughter can magically lift you out.
I love to laugh now. I enjoy making other people laugh, too. But it wasn’t always that way for me.
The Worst First Day of School Ever
When I was in 6th grade, my parents enrolled me in a private Christian school.
Not long after I arrived, I went to my first Bible class.
My teacher was a man probably in his thirties. He wore a white short-sleeved dress shirt and a conservative red tie. His hair resembled those plastic wigs the band Devo wore in the 80’s.
“Turn in your Bibles to 1st Chronicles,” he instructed.
I pulled my rumpled Gideon out of my pocket.
“Let’s see if this Bible has Chronicles in it,” I muttered.
“YOU BE QUIET!” Mr. Ford barked.
Stunned, I raised my head slowly, slouched into my hard wooden desk, and saw the fire in Mr. Ford’s eyes – which were glaring at me.
He paused a moment to let the stinging rebuke sink in, then returned to the front of the room.
I don’t remember anything he said after that.
I do remember that not one person asked me how I was doing when the class was over.
I felt alone, isolated, and ostracized. It seemed obvious that nobody cared. That feeling forged chains around my heart and soul and choked the life out of me.
I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell my friends. I didn’t tell anybody. The shame covered me like a dark, wet blanket – and I had no idea how to get out from under it.
The Only Place I Felt Safe
Every Saturday morning I’d watch the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner show. It was 90 minutes of slapstick violence (with no lasting ramifications) and witty repartee.
I watched so many episodes so many times that I had Bugs Bunny’s voice down pat. I memorized every line of What’s Opera, Doc and could repeat the whole 6 minutes flawlessly.
It was hilarious.
Laughing was a blessed relief from the weightiness of teenage life.
The rest of each week I expressed myself in art and writing. I drew cartoons. I wrote sarcastic essays about life. I was freer there than anywhere else in the real world. I could laugh and poke fun at others – and they’d never know.
And they could never beat the snot out of me.
The Laugh That Opened Prison Doors
At the age of 23, I was enrolled in a trade school to study photography.
To graduate, I had to take a career preparation class. In there, we learned how to sell ourselves, write snazzy cover letters, and craft sterling resumes.
One of my first assignments was to read the self-image segment of Zig Ziglar’s See You at the Top.
I’d never heard of the man before. I decided I’d read it in case there was a pop test.
I was absolutely blown away by what was inside.
I discovered I was somebody who did belong in this crazy world. I’d been given gifts – real, valuable, and useful – to share with the world. And if I didn’t, I should be ashamed of myself.
I laughed out loud.
Zig was so inspirational I couldn’t help but believe he was telling the truth. I raised my hands into a V and shouted, “Yes!”
Then I laughed the giddy laughter of a child.
I was free.
The next morning I left the shameful prison behind and faced the world as a new man.
Everybody Laughed – and I Was Responsible
The next morning at school, I greeted everybody.
I didn’t care if they were my friends before or not. I didn’t care if they were young or old, male or female, human or alien. I felt good about myself – and no one was going to take that away.
There’s freedom when you know yourself. You can laugh at things that might otherwise ruffle your feathers. You can poke fun at your friends and they’ll know you love them. And the little stresses of life won’t overwhelm you when you can laugh them off.
When you invite others to laugh with you, they’ll love you.
Laughter is the Key to Rapport
Little by little over the years, I made friends by making people laugh at inopportune moments. You know, like when Mary Tyler Moore busts out laughing at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown.
Yeah, I just dated myself with that example.
Laughter lowers people’s defenses. It’s especially charming when you make yourself the butt of your own jokes. If you poke fun at others, always keep it good natured if you ever want to see them again.
Joke Telling 101
Roger Dawson, the author of Secrets of Power Persuasion, says there are only 5 jokes.
“Oh, come on,” you say. “I’ve heard stand-up comics tell hundreds of jokes.”
The circumstances and characters can change. But honestly, there are only 5.
Here they are, with brief explanations:
Exaggeration – This is the stuff of tall tales. Paul Bunyan anyone?
- “This bus ride is gonna take 20 years.”
- “When were you born? 1865?”
- “He slept so long even the bedbugs went through five generations.”
Puns – The play on words. These are tricky because you have to be clever to pull it off.
- “The largest shipment of hot dogs arrived in Manhattan in 1936. France owed us 3 million franks.”
- “The first janitors’ union made sweeping reforms.”
- “Did you hear about the guy who got his whole left side cut off? He’s all right now.”
Put downs – These are friendly insults you rib friends with once you know they really like you.
- “She was so thin she had to wear skis in the shower to keep from going down the drain.”
- “She was so fastidious if her husband got up for a midnight snack, she had the bed made when he got back.”
- “Like a door on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”
Silliness – This is the stuff Monty Python movies are made of. When something is absurd, it makes us laugh out loud.
Visit the Argument Clinic.
Surprise – The unexpected has a way of making us laugh. Did you expect that to come out of the cake?
Know that you know the five jokes, experiment with them. You’ll be amazed at how people open up and laugh at you.
Laughter is the Best Medicine & Has Immense Health Benefits
We started by saying laughter is the best medicine.
Here are just some of the ways it makes your body healthier:
- lowers blood pressure
- increases oxygenation in the blood
- reduces stress hormones
- boosts your immune system
- works your abdominal muscles and diaphragm
- keeps you from getting a cold or respiratory infection
- improves your alertness
- makes you more creative
- enhances your memory
- and even prevents cancer!
Now Do This
Laughter is powerful, free, and highly effective.
So start chuckling every chance you get.
See the humor in the mundane reality of your everyday life.
Find others to laugh with and feel the exhilaration together.
Then share your story here so others can be inspired to live a life full of laughter, too!
Here’s a bonus for you who read to the end!
Now go make someone laugh and comment with your story.
Frank McKinley is a Writing Coach, Promotion Strategist, and Idea Guy. He’s been a writer for as long as he can remember. He lives in Georgia with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Jake. You can find him online at www.frankmckinleyauthor.com.