I’ve conducted hundreds of seminars for cancer patients, survivors, and their family members; and I’ve been awestruck by their incredible ability to laugh at what would make most of us shudder. We all know that cancer doesn’t choose its hosts based on people’s health—-or lack of it. Although it certainly makes sense to choose a balanced lifestyle rather than one that is filled with processed foods, lack of exercise and too much stress. It could make a difference, but it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get cancer. Aside from the obvious lifestyle choices, what has always astounded me is how many individuals with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses are invested in using humor as a coping mechanism. Called “gallows humor”, it supplies individuals with a way to deflect the stress their experiencing, and also gain access to chemistry that helps lift their spirits. Life is going to hand you lemons—-there’s no question about that. But instead of making lemonade, as the cliche goes, you may want to throw them out and try to find the humor in the situation. Finding comic relief in bad situations can be a lifesaver. Obviously there are life events that are more egregious than others. But don’t wait for a dismal diagnosis to get started. If you begin to utilize your humor to defuse the stress of every day frustrations, you will soon become more and more proficient and it will soon be an automatic response. See yourself as athlete in training. I often find humor in ads on TV. They become more and more absurd with each warning at the end of the commercial. They spend at least half of the ad scaring the living hell out of you. I also love the ways retail stores use doublespeak to sell products. I once went in to buy a new mattress and was greeted by a “sleep consultant”, who was dressed not unlike an emergency room physician.He insisted I needed to assess my sleep quotient. I started to feel like I was preparing for a CAT scan rather than buying a bed. Driving can become amusing if you notice the signs along the road and take them literally: i.e. soft shoulder, bear right, blind driveway, brake for Moose! The reality of life is that we are all going to get a chance to suffer! Try to incorporate humor into your daily life by perhaps listening to your favorite comic when you’re driving, watch funny movies or at least ones that lift your spirits often. Hang out with people who like to laugh. We know that “misery likes company”, but it’s much better to be with those who love mirth and mayhem. Most importantly , become a self amuser. Than if no one shows up, you’ll still have fun.
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