Six Ways Laughter Improves Your Life in Recovery

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Misti B., author of If You Leave Me, Can I Come with You: Daily Meditations for Codependents and Al-Anons... with a Sense of Humor
Let’s face it, codependents aren’t generally known for our silly, carefree, personalities – go ahead, do an online search for “codependent” and “humor” or “hilarious.”Known as the hall monitors of the recovery community, we have a reputation for taking the fun out of the party, and popping all the balloons afterwards.Thankfully, humor has been scientifically proven to improve relationships, especially those of the codependent. And, if you’re like me, employing humor is easier than having to learn about or practice things like “effective, non-violent communication,” and cheaper than spending money on massages and therapy. Laughter has never failed to improve anyone’s life, especially when you consider the following:

  1. You learn to embrace happiness and sadness simultaneously: As Carol Burnett said, “comedy is tragedy plus time.” While not every tragedy can become funny ha-ha, it’s important to remember that there is no darkness without light. Even when you’re in the throes of despair, it’s important to remind yourself that you will laugh again. You can’t appreciate true happiness and pleasure until you’ve experienced disappointment and pain. Likewise, you can’t quit smoking cigarettes if you never start, and you can’t stop laughing if you never start. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, just stand around and laugh at all the cigarette smokers.
  2. Your personal failures can become funny: Think about it – after the upset of losing a job wears off or the pain of falling in public subsides, you often see the humorous side of it. I remember the first time I rode a bus during a rainstorm. When the driver made a sudden stop, I fell face first into the lap of a man who was seated in the front row. I don’t think it even hurt. I mean, maybe I broke something or whatever, but in the grand scheme of things, I was fine. I mean, if I wasn’t, I’d be dead, but I’m fine, at least enough to write this article. Then, there was the time I was fired for following my boss to a motel where he was rendezvousing with another employee. That wasn’t as funny until like, twenty years later. The point is, sometimes you’re down, and the only thing to do is get back up. There’s no better way to remind yourself of your humanity than by falling in front of a group of strangers, and finding humor in it later.
  3. You stop it with all the outlandish expectations: Humor, by its very nature, celebrates the fact that most people – especially if they’ve made it past, say twelve years old – are pretty kooky or borderline insane. It’s easier to let go of the outrageous expectations I have after I’ve accepted the fact that people rarely do what I want them to, no matter how much I humiliate, cajole or insult them. My expectations might be slightly outlandish, but it’s only because I know my suggestions will improve the quality of other peoples’ lives. Alas, since I’ve learned to curb my expectations, I’m having more fun because, nothing, and I repeat, nothing ever turns out the way I want it to. Mostly because people inevitably get in the way and screw things up.
  4. You’re calmer and more detached: Jerry Seinfeld’s massively successful career is based upon his astute observations of the absurdities and frailties of the human race. When everyone around him is flipping out, Jerry just stands back and lets it all unfurl. He never gets caught up in the crazy. He also doesn’t give a rat’s you-know-what about what people think of him. This could be because a.) Jerry is incredibly self-assured and learned the art of detachment, or simply because b.) he’s filthy rich and doesn’t have to give a rat’s you-know-what about what people think of him. For purposes of this article, let’s go with detachment.
  5. You rejoice in other peoples’ weirdness: My Irish grandmother was a tough old bird who chewed tobacco and slept with a loaded shotgun next to her bed. She used phrases like, “I’ll slap the chops off ya,” and “Don’t go pissin’ on mah rainbow.” Now I have a different perspective about Grandma Belle. Yes, she was inappropriate and today, her lifestyle would undoubtedly have prompted a visit from the Department of Social Services, but I’ve come to value her quirkiness. Now, when I want to tell a friend they shouldn’t quit their day job to pursue their dream of performing with a mime troupe, I think about Grandma Belle in her rocking chair, holding a tin of Skoal. I’ve learned to grant people the dignity of being as weird as they want to be, no matter how insane they may seem to me.
  6. You become more vulnerable and thus, much better looking: Puppies, babies … nearly anything from a Disney animated movie are all vulnerable and cute, and they bring smiles to peoples’ faces – unless you’re like, totally heartless. Vulnerability breeds honesty and openness and, well … cuteness. And, while you might not actually become better looking if you’re funny, people will enjoy being around you. One study showed that 90% of the people surveyed found lighthearted and open people, more attractive compared to beautiful but, miserable people. While I can’t verify the statistics, I know without a doubt, they’re true. People who are generally nice and fun are better looking, kind of like you are right now, after having read this article. Hey sexy! Yes, I’m talking to you!

Being funny is something many people can do, because laughter comes from examining and exposing our own insecurities, fears and flaws. And, if you’re codependent, you’re no doubt churning with fear, filled with flaws and insecurities. Which means you’ve got the makings of relatable humor!

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