What is good for your psyche, cheaper than a shrink and has zero calories? Laughter and best with a ‘laugh buddy’

At some point in our lives, you may have thought, “I wish our lives could be a series of hilarious comedy moments.” We’d find the humor in our daily activities, which the cartoonist Roz Chast does in her work.

Laughter is healthy, for as the saying goes, it’s the best medicine in today’s grim world, especially with the horrendous situation in the Mideast. A good belly laugh would get us over a bad hair day, mean boss, rude drivers and snippy clerks. We’d live longer if we could laugh to our graves.

Freud posited that humor may be the highest of the defense processes of the psyche, which can be used to guard against anxiety.

Writer Norman Cousins said laughing helped him through a very serious illness.

In a New York Times article Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, prescribes “one good belly laugh a day” for his patients. He wrote, “It’s not just going ‘ha, ha,’ but a “deep physiological laugh that elicits tears of joys and relaxation.”

We’re serious about our work as writers but love to share some of the hilarious storylines that happen to us daily and the wacky scenarios that we drum up in our heads. Visually, if we could draw Roz Chast-style cartoons, they would reflect some of our crazier thoughts and the images would be about us poking fun at ourselves and our nearest and dearest.

Picture these:

We’re on a deadline. That’s when we wish we could flip a switch from our nice, sweet reporter/writer personalities and scream at the top of our lungs: “We need the information NOW! You think we’re just sitting here snacking? Sometimes, yes, we are…sitting for sure and eating definitely.

We’re talking to one of our children who just got a huge raise. We insert foot in mouth: “Do you think you could save some of that money this time rather than fritter it away again?” An immediate apology follows. But when it’s repeated to another mom with grown children who’s been guilty of the same offense, it becomes funny that we’ve begun to lose our filter.

We think about secretly bringing back our mothers from the afterlife to tell them off for some of the dreadful things they said to us through the years. Example: You have a weight problem and tell your mother about your new eating habits. You’re eating veggies, avoiding carbs and consuming more fiber such as…avocados. Your mother, who is sick in bed, sits up suddenly and shrieks: “Avocados are full of fat. Eliminate them now or you’re sure to gain more!”

Our partner keeps his elbows on the table. You tell him, laughing, “You eat like a four-year-old,” but he continues keeping them there and you grow more frustrated. Your mother would be so proud you spoke up about manners.

Everyone keeps asking: Are you dating? Are you on the apps? “Who needs dating,” you respond laughing, “when there’s so much good TV right now.”

You had surgery. A friend asks how you’re doing, to which you respond, “It had to come to this. I am an aging person who now must have her bra and underpants laid out and put on by a stranger, but I’m lucky enough to find and afford a caregiver.” You both laugh.

Again, we love our grown children who constantly remind us to let them live their own lives. Yet, during Covid-19, their instructions about how we should live ours made us laugh uproariously. “Mom, you can’t go anywhere. You’re part of the old group.” We each listened, thanked them profusely and heeded some of their advice since we considered the virus no laughing matter. However, we still went to get our hair colored so that at least our graying hair doesn’t make us look old.  

The laughs erupt most and loudest when we share what we think is funny. Laughing to ourselves in our dreams, when we read a funny cartoon or watch a comedy on TV alone (“Grace and Frankie,” “Will and Grace” or “The Devil Wears Prada”) and sometimes even for the 10th time is great, but we recommend having a laugh buddy--or better yet several—with a similar sense of humor. The laughs are guaranteed to be bigger and make the world less dreary and sad.

And by the way have you heard and shared the joke about the gorilla who walks into a bar and says, “A scotch on the rocks, please.” The gorilla hands the bartender a $10 bill. The bartender thinks to himself, “This gorilla doesn’t know the prices of drinks,” and gives him 15 cents change. The bartender says, “You know, we don’t get too many gorillas in here.” The gorilla replies, “Well, at $9.85 a drink, I ain’t coming back, either.”  


  • Lynn Marks

    Such an interesting topic in this week’s blog and i really appreciated Steven’s addition, particularly because my husband is experiencing neurological issues.
    Thanks once again to Barbara and Meg for their weekly bouts of wisdom.

  • Steven Koehler

    Great article. Jokes and humor also build brain power and help stave off dementia. A friend of mine is a nurologist. When a patient comes to him with a possible memory concern or potential neurological problem, he might initially work in some humor into the conversation to observe the patient’s reaction and response time. Understanding a joke is a higher brain function. It requires both short term memory (listening and remembering the set-up of the joke) while the joke is being told and long term memory— holding the joke in your head, waiting for the punch line and then making a neurological connection with information that might seem unrelated but can be humorous when connected with information held in long term memory. Sometimes the punchline might be a little absurd. For example: “What do you call an alligator wearing a vest? …an investigator.” The brain can then picture a gator wearing a vest. The longer the joke, the more short-term memory is required. To craft a joke on your own requires even more brain power. Comedians are generally intelligent and sharp-witted people who continually develop new jokes and hone their brain power as they age. It is common for comedians like George Burns and Joan Rivers to still be preforming well into their 80’s and 90’s.

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