Sistas and Laughter that Lasts 5/11

May 2011

For several years my mom, four sisters (sistas) and I have met at a unique location, where none of us reside, to celebrate our mom, and each other, in and around the Mother’s Day weekend. It’s an opportunity to be together for food, wine, shopping and laughter. Throw in the odd spa treatment or circus spectacular and you get the picture.

As mom passed away in November, we orphans are even more committed and more connected. While we really miss her, her absence this year caused us to revisit our formula in terms of travel possibilities, length of stay, and activities otherwise limited by her advanced age. So we changed the formula. We went to Florida, where one sister lives, and spent a whole week together (which leaves way too much time for shopping).

Bargains aside, what really stands out as meaningful and lasting is the laughter. When I remember these annual events it’s the ridiculous things we laugh about, year after year, that come to mind. Each year we re-enact the old laughs, which get even funnier, and then new ones are inevitably added. My mom would say, “You girls are always clowning it.” (Now there’s a mom-ism!)

Truth be known, mom taught us everything we know about clowning. She was the queen of embellished storytelling. My sister Monique has taken up that role. Monique is always willing to take a risk, laugh at herself, or step out with great openers like, “Do you notice anything weird about us?”

What is so great about laughter? Well, actually quite a lot. Everyone knows the physical and emotional release of a really good belly laugh. There is also a lot of research that you might not know about, that shows the benefits extend to many aspects of health.

Some Healthy Benefits of Laughter
• relaxes muscles
• helps fight infection
• reduces blood pressure and heart rate
• reduces pain by releasing endorphins
• reduces stress hormones and their effects
• effects mental functions positively

If laughter is so great, what holds us back from laughing more often? You just need to turn on the TV for the answer. There is a never-ending supply of bad news if we focus on it. Add to it our personal challenges that we tend to take very seriously and we can sober up pretty quickly.

I am acutely aware that when I’m caught in the grip of stress or overwhelm I lose my sense of ha-ha. My husband will say, “That was a joke.” I’ll say, “I know. It wasn’t funny.”

Ironically, it’s the things that will help us most that are the first to go when stressed, like: laughter, sleep, exercise and a healthy diet. We know laughter works. We can all remember a time where laughter relieved tension, even in the most difficult moment.

Laughter is all about perspective, isn’t it? Some people, like my friend Cyndi, can turn any situation into a humorous one. She creates hysteria every time she tells the story of her husband’s appendicitis surgery come undone. She’s got tons of these stories, not because her life is funnier, but because laughter is always her first response, her perspective.

How can we laugh more? Off the top of my pointy little head, here are a few ideas. I’m sure you have a few of your own.
• Be social. Groups usually breed laughter.
• Be selective. Surround yourself with lighthearted, funny people.
• Take a risk and be the one to set, or change, the tone to humor.
• Watch comedies and comedians.
• Share your favorite YouTube video.
• Listen to someone else guffaw (give a child a raspberry. . . not the berry, but the belly variety).
• Have a smile on your face and be ready and open for laughter.
• Try karaoke, dancing the funky chicken or watching home movies.
• Shift your perspective/exaggerate – ask “What’s ridiculous or funny about this?”

Above all, manage your stress. Stress is a real buzz kill. For most people, laughter comes freely, or is a result of being happy. Stress can definitely get in the way. Use laughter to cheer you, but please don’t use laughter to mask your sadness or to put others down. That’s not so healthy.

So what are you waiting for? Plan a sistas event or a bro-deo. You don’t need real sisters to make this work. I’m looking forward to my annual soccer sistas convention in Canmore this fall. Much like my real sisters, the soccer sisters are a diverse group of women who rarely meet all together, otherwise. But there is a bond that connects us across the country and beyond. When we meet, we’re just so darned excited to be together that we laugh and laugh and . . . well, . . .shop.