Open Doors Spiritual Matters: Take the time to nurture “laugh-out-loud” moments

Rev. Karen Dale of Beach United Church encourages residents to find their "laugh-out-loud" moments.


If ever there was a year to skip over Lent and move right into Easter this would be it.

In this time of lockdown and isolation due to a death-dealing virus and made worse by rampant inequality; we long for relief and look for signs of new life.

Lent is part of the Christian year and is traditionally known as a time of giving up things such as chocolate or wine; so that we can focus on our spiritual journey of prayer and meditation. Some of us “take up” certain practices during this season.

At Beach United Church we are doing both, by reducing the amount of meat in our diet and adding more plant-based meals. We are doing this to lower our carbon footprint and move closer to living with respect in creation.

So does all of this seem a bit heavy for such challenging times – where might the relief we long for come from?

Should I lighten the mood and tell a joke?

But did you know that only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of “laugh out loud” moments follow anything that even remotely resembles a joke.

Laughter is a hidden language that we all speak; it is part of our genetic code. Typically we laugh when we are in the grip of strong emotions. That is why we might laugh at seemingly inappropriate times, such as a funeral. However laughter helps to diffuse tension and eases stress and anxiety.

What actually makes us laugh is another person, not a joke.

Even if we feel happy, we rarely laugh when no-one is around. So despite feeling “Zoom fatigue” it is helpful to see people’s faces, it brings out the smile within and eventually the laughter.

It is difficult for me to genuinely laugh when I am alone recording a worship service on my laptop. The Sundays I am together with people via Zoom, the laughter regularly ripples out from the boxes showing the faces of those people I know and care for. It is a cathartic experience.

Let’s learn from comedians such as Trevor Noah, who use humour to point out injustice. Noah grew up in Soweto, South Africa with a white father and a black mother, and so confronted prejudices on both sides. His family taught him not to be quick to anger, but rather find a way to laugh about it or to minimize it using humour.

Humour can help to sustain optimism that change is possible, even in the most difficult circumstances. So, let’s tune into our funny bones and “take-up” laughter.

I have found myself laughing out loud at dogs jumping in the snow; a big smile spreads across my face at the sound of birds chirping away in the bushes and I love seeing smiling eyes above a mask.

What brings a smile to your face or laughter to your lips? Perhaps the spiritual practice we can all take up this Lent is to nurture our “laugh out loud” moments.

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