Sometimes it seems like laughter has left the world today. Problems, losses, and tragedies fill the minds and lives of many. But, amidst this turmoil and pain, there is a ray of hope and laughter as we learned when we had the privilege of listening to our guest, Barbara Saltzman, a remarkable woman who is making a miracle out of the early cancer death of her beloved 22-year- old son, David. Traveling the country, speaking on hope and laughter and giving away thousands of copies of her son’s best-selling children’s inspirational book, The Jester Has Lost His Jingle, Barbara enlightened our show with her sage words of wisdom on how to turn tragedy into triumph.
Here is some of her advice:
*Turn crying into smiling and laughter. Barbara tells us, “When you feel like crying turn sadness on its head. Sing your loudest and dance your best, even when the music is not playing.” In psychology, the Facial Feedback hypothesis tells us that by smiling, our muscles release certain brain chemical that help us feel more joyous and happy. When you’re feeling down or depressed, that’s the time to go in front of your mirror to smile and laugh. Put on some upbeat music, maybe dance a bit. Although initially you may not feel like doing it, by getting your body in motion, you release the brain chemicals to elevate your mood.
*Recognize the “Jester” inside of us. The “Jester” is the part of us that is spontaneous, fun-loving, and hopeful. It is optimistic and joyful, just like a child. No matter how old you are, you still have this Jester inside you—maybe it’s been deeply buried under a mountain of resentments, disappointments, regrets, and failures. But, it is still there. Find the activities or hobbies that can re-energize your Jester: maybe it’s writing, art, meditation, a physical activity; being with friends, animals, nature, or children; a spiritual practice; traveling, giving to others. Whatever that special activity is, spend more time doing it, and be observant as your Inner Jester comes out to play and enjoy life again.
*Practice group laughter: In psychology, mood contagion, is when we are influenced by other people’s mood (good or bad). If we walk into a room of complaining and bitter people, we may start to feel the same. On the other hand, if we associate ourselves with happy and jovial people, we can start to pick up on their joyful energy. Try this exercise: Get a group of friends or acquaintances together, and just start laughing. You don’t have to tell a joke or do anything—just laugh. Do it for several minutes—as the laughter gets louder and crazier. This will build great positive energy in the room, and you will feel great. No matter how silly you may feel in the beginning, go ahead and roar with laughter (the neighbors may think you’re a little crazy until you invite them to join in. Remember, laughter is the best medicine for whatever ails you.
*Find meaning in the tragedy: Some of us undergo heartbreaking tragedies: the breakup of families to divorce, the pain of losing a love one (especially a child) to an early death; the loss of health, dreams, and hope. Yet, underneath the pain, there are lessons to be learned; meaning to be obtained. The truth is simple: All of us will die. The difference is in what we leave behind: a heap of bitterness and sorrow or a legacy of goodness, love, and contribution. We can take inspiration from the amazing example of Barbara who took her deceased son’s children’s book and made it a national phenomenon and nonprofit organization to help children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Research science has shown that laughter, optimism, and feelings of love can help people heal faster from many types of illnesses and psychological problems. By finding the Jester inside us—the spontaneous, loving, and compassionate side of our natures—we can release all the goodness and joy we have inside us; to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, and the world itself.