Taking My Medicine
By Cheryl Hansen
They say laughter is the best medicine. According to The Chopra Center, it reduces the stress response, combats depression, relieves pain, boosts immunity and increases resilience. Yoga does all of those things, too, which is why I do it. But it can’t hurt to throw some laughter into the mix to amplify the benefits, right?
I think a lot about the impression I make on my kids. I wonder—maybe too often—what stories they’ll tell their friends in a bar someday about growing up in our house. I don’t aspire to be the cool mom or the fun mom, necessarily. I’d be OK if my son grows up and tells his significant other that the reason he makes his bed every day is because his mom made him do it when he was a kid. “It was annoying when I was 10,” he’ll say. “But now I totally get it that it helps me start and the end the day with some sense of order.”
Mixed in with those solid lessons they may one day appreciate, are lighter moments—I hope—that’ll maybe make them smile in the tougher times. Right now, nothing makes my children happier than when I fall into a fit of giggles or offer a genuine belly laugh to one of their stories (at which time, they’ll repeat the funny parts again and again). Just sitting down with them—plus a golden retriever that has a knack for finding our most ticklish spots—conjures the kind of laughter that reaches my deeply hidden abdominal muscles. And that kind of laughter is wonderfully contagious.
The look on my children’s faces—a combination of amusement, wonder and surprise—makes me think that I don’t laugh like that often enough. And they may not be the only ones I’m holding out on. When my husband and I spent some time recently with an old friend, he took great joy in sharing a story—probably because my friend burst into laughter at all the right spots. I’d never heard the story before and I wonder if it’s because I’m less likely to offer up those kind of satisfying guffaws we all crave.
It’s possible that the day-to-day craziness of my life—the cooking, the carpooling the bill-paying—has created an unintentional shift in my priorities. But can we prioritize laughter? Absolutely. Anything that alleviates stress, boosts immunity, helps us battle depression and brings pure, simple joy to a child should top our list of priorities.
I can imagine my kids in 15 years sitting around a table with craft beer, healthy appetizers (!) and a group of good friends that just happen to be discussing their mothers—a thoroughly laughable and entirely unlikely concept I know, but stick with me. The best thing they could say has nothing to do with my cooking or ability to find the coolest summer camp. The best thing I can imagine them saying is “OMG—my mom has the best laugh.”