Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Humor and Health

The month of April is National Humor Month.

My experience is that laughter and humor have been essential ingredients in my life and ministry, especially in bringing healing for myself and for others. There is an increasing number of professionals in the medical and psychiatric field who are seeing the value of humor in promoting the health of an individual. There are laughter and humor workshops springing up in many countries. Some psychologists and doctors are even beginning to study the physiology of humor. Pain reduction and prevention of violence toward self and others through humor raise questions about the mutual interplay of endorphins, immunology and humor.

S. Tamra Thomas (right) and
S. Rita Kunkel share a laugh.
Here are several childhood experiences of humor both in the home and other places that touched me enough to stay in my memory. The earliest memory of my father was sitting on his lap at about the age of two or three, combing his black hair down over his face and over his eyes playing peek-a boo. The more he laughed, the more I would be creative with his hair, combing it in every different direction. It was fun to make him laugh. In his book "God Created Laughter", Conrad Hyers says, "children growing up as toddlers tend to laugh easily – but adults often squelch it because 'one does not play at things,' one works at them. Parents are too much in a hurry to have their children grow up and be serious." To this day, I like being able to make people laugh, perhaps because it is healing and therapeutic. 

Another quality of humor is that it is medicine, not only for the spirit, but also for the body. One particular Friday in March, I had a coordinator’s luncheon meeting with five other local coordinators at a cafe in a neighboring town. After that meeting, my plan was to drive another hour to help lead and play for the prayer service before the lecture to be given by the author of the book "Joshua." Waking up that morning, I felt sick, feverish, had the chills and felt achy all over. After taking medicine to treat my flu symptoms, I ventured to the first meeting. After we completed the first meeting, we sat around the table laughing as we were sharing humorous stories from our past experiences. When I got up from table, the flushness and chills were gone, and I felt fine about going ahead to the evening event. I commented to the group that this laughter dissolved the virus and my symptoms were gone. If it can bring physical healing, it must touch the spirit and emotion as well. It was a real experience of "laughter as the best medicine."

There are many humorous situations in ministry, especially if one is open to seeing and appreciating them. George and Betty were in their eighties and in their own home. When I needed ministry for myself, or to have my spirits lifted, I would visit them because of his humor and her gracious hospitality. After Betty died, George moved into a retirement center and I would keep on visiting him. Each time, his positive spirit and his gift for telling humorous stories lifted my spirits. One day, his senior male friend came to visit him and said, "George, the rumor is all over town that you want to marry this young nurse’s aide. What are you thinking? She is 31 and you are 91." George responded, "Well, if she dies, she dies."

Dreams also can be an important avenue to find humor. In one of my dreams, I am at a place where there is a long smorgasbord of food before me. We are through the food line and a woman tells me that my nose was loose. Sure enough, I felt it and the nose was just hanging on with only a little piece of skin on the left nostril. I answered her, “So what is wrong with a loose nose?” My first feeling after waking was delighting in the humor. There was no pain or fear of possibly losing a nose, just that it looked so crazy. The message in it for me was that just as food is meant for our nourishment, so can humor be nourishing. The nose is an organ for inhaling and exhaling and it opens to the breath of life. The expression "follow your nose" could mean to trust one’s gut and instincts in coming to the truth within. Life offers many opportunities, and many choices. Sometimes a good choice is to "follow your nose."

Margaret Mandernach, OSB

5 comments:

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  2. Great reflection.Live your stories of how humor made a difference in your life and in interactions with others. It has strengthened our connection with our mutual interest in the power and possibility of laughter and play.

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