Our communities and our families are being devastated by addiction. Drug use is destroying –families and we need to do everything we can to stop its contagion. I know this may sound simplistic…and in a way, it is; but I have an idea to help stem the rise of drug addiction. Now, I know that what I am about to suggest will not remedy the problem. It is not a magic bullet. It will only be a small part of a much broader solution. But, what I am about to suggest can play a role in stemming the scourge of drug addiction…and you can begin right in your own home with your own family. What is it? Give your family mega-doses of social laughter. Laugh as a family. Laugh with other families. Giggle, chuckle, or let out a “belly busting” laugh. Laugh Out Loud.
Research has found that laughing together increases the release of endorphins and other peptides in the brain, especially areas involved in arousal and emotions. Because laughter is contagious, its joy can spread through your family like…well, laughter! As it spreads, endorphins are released. Everyone experiences the pleasure and calming effect of this laughter-induced-endorphin-release. This promotes feelings of togetherness, enhancing bonding and connection among those laughing. If we can teach our families to enjoy the natural endorphins of laughing with your family (LOL), why would they want something else? And, who would want to lose the enhanced connection with family that comes through laughter. So, start laughing together early. Laugh often. Laugh hard. Laugh out loud.
Baseball season is fast approaching and that’s good news for marriages. Let me explain. In the early 1990’s Howard Markman, director of The University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, conducted an informal study of cities with major league baseball teams (See Baseball Preserves Marriage). He discovered that cities with major league baseball teams had a 28% lower divorce rate than cities that did not have teams but expressed an interest in getting one. Even more surprising, Denver’s divorce rate stood at 6 divorces per 1,000 people the year before they were awarded a major league baseball franchise. Ten years later, 7 years after the Colorado Rockies played their first game, the divorce rate had dropped to 4.2 divorces per 1,000 people (a 20% drop). Lest you think that 20% decrease was just a product of the 10 year time span, the divorce rate for the United States had only declined by 15% over that same time period. Interesting…. Markman does not believe baseball saves marriages. But, he does believe that “going to a baseball game and… having fun and talking as friends is one way to protect and preserve love.” In other words, having fun as a couple strengthens your marriage. Said another way, “couples who play together stay together!”
Baseball aside, enjoying playful times as a couple really does strengthen marriage. It increases effective communication and conflict resolution. It enhances relationship satisfaction. Play promotes spontaneity, reminds us of our positive relationship history, and builds additional positive history for us to look back on with joy. Play also builds friendship and enhances commitment. In general, if you want a healthy, happy marriage, engage in copious amounts of play together. Enjoy fun activities. Be silly. Tell jokes. Tickle. Have a pillow fight. Laugh. Anything you both find fun and pleasurable provides an opportunity to play and grow more intimate in your relationship…which brings us back to the 7th inning stretch. Baseball may not save your marriage; but the playful conversation, light-hearted teasing, and plain old fun you have at the game will definitely contribute to a stronger, more intimate marriage. So sing along. Everybody now, “Take me out to the ballgame….”
Sarah Algoe, assistant professor of social psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill, believes “little things” like gratitude and laughter “help relationships flourish.” I agree, but she went so far as to test this belief. She and a graduate student asked 77 couples to describe how they
first met. They watched and listened as the couple answered. After reviewing the videotapes of the couples’ answers, the researchers discovered that couples who spent more time laughing together during their description felt more similar to one another. Each spouse in the couples who laughed together also felt their partner was more supportive of them. In other words, laughing together builds a stronger relationship.
Doesn’t laughing together sound like a great way to build a stronger marriage? A fun and enjoyable way to increase feelings of connection and support? So, here’s an idea. Plan a date night of laughter. Go out to dinner and share funny stories of your life together, from the time you met to yesterday’s humorous autocorrect text. After laughing your way through dinner, go to a movie. Make sure to see a funny movie, maybe even a romantic comedy. Laugh it up. After all, a couple who laughs together stays together.
A new year has begun. I’m glad. I am tired of the hassle, the bureaucracy, the constant barrage of sensational seeking in the news. I want to shed the heaviness of stress and feel the lightness of joy. So, I’ve decided to start an epidemic in my family. That’s right. I want to become ground zero for sending cheerfulness viral this year, starting right here in my own home with my own family. Perhaps you will join this epidemic to spread cheer and joy in your family and, from there, into the world around us. Here are some ways I plan to spread cheer this year.
Emoticon with big toothy smile
Smile. I am going to find reasons to smile. When I don’t feel like smiling, I will intentionally smile. I will smile at my spouse when she walks into the room. I will smile at my children every chance I get. I will smile at the clerk who rings up my groceries and even the person who cuts me off in traffic. I will smile because I’m happy to be alive. Smiling brings joy to the one smiling and the one who sees the smile. (Read On Safari for the Elusive Smile for more benefits of smiling.)
Laugh. Yes, I want to laugh. I will seek out jokes to make my whole family laugh. I will laugh at myself. I may even tell more dad jokes (learn about The Power of the Dad Joke) to create more “rolling eye laughter” among my family. A good hearty laugh is good for us. It will reduce stress and draw our families closer together. (More in Laughter is No Laughing Matter)
Show kindness. Nothing increases cheer and joy more than sharing a kind deed or being the recipient of an unexpected, kind deed. So, this year I will make it a point to show kindness to others. I will hold doors open for my family and the stranger behind us. I will give away the last cookie and let my spouse control the remote—in a real blast of kindness I will even let my children control the remote. I will wash dishes and do other chores around the house. I will seek out ways to help my neighbors. Cheerfulness and joy will ride into our lives on acts of kindness; I’m seeking ways to remain on kindness the whole way into the lives of all those I meet. (Click here to learn about The Mighty Power of Kindness and 8 Ways to Teach Children to be Kind.)
Express gratitude. In the midst of our abundance, we sometimes lose sight of how richly our families are blessed. We neglect to offer thanks and become burdened with the weight of ungratefulness and even entitlement. This year I will combat that sense of entitlement and say “thanks” to those who wait on my table at a restaurant or ring up my drink at the gas station. I will thank those who teach my children. I will thank my children and my spouse for all they do. I will become known as “the guy who always says thank you.” Wouldn’t you like to know that guy? Wouldn’t you be glad to help that guy? I would. This year, I’m going to “be that guy!” How about you? (Learn about more benefits of Intentional Gratitude in this short blog.)
Practice acceptance. This may prove one of the hardest behaviors in my search for cheer this year. In the words of the serenity prayer, “I will accept the things I cannot change.” Bureaucracy will continue to mount its assault. Hassles will remain countless. Stressors will constantly arise. But, I will accept these impingements on my joy as reminders of what I have. The hassle of being caught in traffic reveals the blessing of owning a car. The bureaucracy that raises the cost of nearly everything reminds me that I have employment and income and opportunities. The stress of paying bills reminds me of the abundant material blessing I have—running water, TV, internet, heat, air conditioning, transportation, etc.—that many in the world are forced to live without. Which brings me to the final way I will spread cheer this year…
Practice generosity. Our families truly are blessed. Unfortunately, those blessings sometimes enslave us and we begin to hoard the blessings. This year I will “break out of the hoard” and share…generously…as abundantly as possible. There is joy in giving, great joy. In fact, an ancient writer tells us that Jesus even said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Your act of generosity may even get paid forward in another act of generosity, creating a rippling effect from ground zero in the epidemic of cheerfulness (read about a way to Pay It Forward here).
I’m starting this year…ground zero for an epidemic of cheerfulness and joy. I’m making it a point to spread cheer in my family and beyond. The world MAY BE a better place for it; but my family and I WILL BE a happier people because of it. Will you make your family a happier people?
One of my Facebook friends recently posted a quote by Bob Marley on relationships. He shares four actions that will make our marriages grow and prosper.
Make one another laugh AND think. Share fun times together. Joke and play together. This will enhance your relationship. Fun and laughter increase intimacy in marriages; so play some games. Joke. Laugh…a lot. But, don’t forget that serious discussions also increase intimacy. Share your beliefs, values, and opinions with one another. You may disagree. That’s alright. Rather than get upset, refer to #4 in this list. Sharing and discussing these more serious matters also deepens your intimacy. Laugh AND think together.
Admit your mistakes…and then make the necessary change. Apologies are necessary in any marriage. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. We will unintentionally hurt one another. When you make a mistake, admit it…no matter the circumstance. Apologize—no excuses, just an admission of wrongs done and a simple apology followed by a commitment to change. Then, and this is very important, follow through on the commitment to change.
Hold on tight and share yourself. Commit yourself to the relationship. Emotions may wax and wane. Passions will rise and fall. You will experience good times and bad times in your marriage. However, when you give yourself to your spouse and invest in your marriage, emotions and passions eventually return, bloom, and blossom even more beautiful than the last time. Give your time and energy to making your spouse joyful. Hold on tight through the hard times and enjoy the ride. Your marriage will thank you!
Accept your spouse. Don’t try to change your spouse. Don’t expect more than your spouse can give. Just accept them in all their uniqueness. Cherish their idiosyncrasies. Love them for who they are—the person you fell in love with.
These are 4 wise actions to nurture your marriage. In the words of Bob Marley:
“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.”
The Christmas Season is a wonderful family celebration. We fill our time with traditions and rituals that draw our families together and remind us of the true meaning of the season. Those traditions and rituals create an emotional bond we can cherish throughout our lives with our spouses and children. This holiday season seems to have been rushed and modified for my family. Still, we look for opportunities to fit each of our traditions into the season and, with each one, grow more connected as a family. Let me share some Christmas Traditions we enjoy as a family and a couple of traditions from other families to fill your season with joy and remembrance. My family enjoys:
Reading “A Gathering of Angels” by Calvin Miller.
Decorating the Christmas tree. Buying a family ornament for our tree each year. Hiding the Christmas pickle…sort of.
Sharing gifts with one another, one on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning. Christmas morning we play music, sip a hot drink, and pass around the gifts.
Listening to the Christmas concerts given by the high school band and chorus.
Singing Christmas carols.
Contemplating and talking about the birth of Christ. I especially like the story of the shepherds!
Enjoying a special family Christmas dinner and enjoying a Christmas dinner with our church family.
Attending a Christmas Eve service.
Setting up a manger scene.
My children bake cookies and I help by eating them. (I love eating them fresh from the oven!)
Some traditions our friends celebrate and enjoy…you might, too:
Leave the wise men out of the manger scene and place them somewhere on the other side of the house. Each day, move them closer to the manger scene. They finally arrive at the manger scene the day after Christmas.
Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and enjoy it on Christmas day.
One of our friends shares with his whole community in a traditional Slovak Christmas Dinner each year, complete with ethnic entertainment.
The Elf on the Shelf…who magically moves around the house on his/her own.
Watching the Christmas TV specials. Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer are my favorites.
I know the season is well under way, but what are some of your family’s favorite traditions? We would love to hear how you celebrate family at Christmas time. And, who knows, your tradition may help another family celebrate their Christmas this year!
My daughters have accused me of telling “Dad jokes.” I don’t know what they’re talking about. Even some of their friends have accused me of telling dad jokes. I asked for clarification of the “Dad joke” and knew their answer could not describe my jokes…”lame,” “silly,” “sarcastic,” “uncool.” Well, maybe I do that once in a while, but is that really so bad? “No,” my daughters reply as they roll their eyes. “Keep it up, they’re stupid.” So confusing…lame, silly, even stupid and uncool yet embraced, laughed at, and asked to continue. I really don’t know what they’re talking about. But, it did make me think about “the Dad joke.” I think the Dad joke really carries a great deal of power. By the way, what happened when the cow jumped over the fence? I heard it was an udder disaster.
Dad jokes teach children to use humor when navigating the world of disappointment and momentary failures. Dad jokes help set the stage for seeing the disappointing situation in a fresh way and then thinking about the problem in a new way. Like the father whose son was thrown out at third. The father tells him, “That’s because it takes longer to get from 2nd to 3rd than it does from 1st to 2nd. There’s that shortstop in between.” Suddenly, the disappointment is a little less painful.
Dad jokes also help our children cope with fear. Mom and Dad can comfort, but sometimes it’s the Dad joke (“don’t worry about seven, he eight nine and is full now”) on the way out the door that makes children smile and lay down to sleep.
Dad jokes also nurture intimacy and connection. Laughing together bonds people…and it’s just plain fun. Who doesn’t like to have fun together? And what parent does not crave moments of laughter with their children? By the way, no running in your campsite. Why? Because you can only “ran” when it’s past tense.
Dad jokes lighten the moment and make time go faster, building anticipation. In our family we pass a cemetery as we near our church camp. Knowing my children need to learn a little about death, I seize the teaching moment to announce, “People are dying to get in there” and point at the cemetery. Amidst the “Aww Dad” and groans, I hear a chuckle. I recognize a new spark in the voice and hear a response that acknowledges, “We’re almost there, yay.”
Dad jokes help our children see things from a fresh perspective, too. They help our children think about words and communication. After all, many Dad jokes are simply a play on words or a pun that force us think and see the situation in a slightly different way. To hear “A steak pun is a rare medium well done” encourages the listener to think about the meaning of words and how context impacts that meaning. These skills are important in social interactions and business interactions later in life.
Dad jokes also help our children see the irony of situations and, in turn, they encourage critical thinking. “I asked a salesperson in the local bookstore where the self-help section was. She said if she told me it would defeat the purpose.” Think about it…the irony, the critical thought…aha, there’s the laugh.
So, I guess I don’t mind being accused of a Dad joke now and again. Every Dad joke is just a moment of learning, bonding, growing, and sharing. So what’s your favorite Dad joke?
We’re going for a walk. Don’t go running. I want to be Roman, not Russian, on this walk. Slow down.
“Dad I want hands-free on my phone.” “Then delete all the Germans from your contact list.” “What?” “Then you’ll be Hans free.”
I heard the energizer bunny got arrested. He was charged with battery. (It keeps on going and going.)
Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom? Cuz its “p” is silent.
How do you make a hankie dance? Put a little boogie in it. Now blow your nose.
Enjoy Jimmy Fallon’s favorite Dad jokes from #StopItDad.
Laughter is an amazing medicine. This is not new information. In fact, one ancient Hebrew proverb states that “a cheerful heart is good medicine…” (Proverbs 17:22). Laughter is like medicine, not only to the soul but to the whole person. Consider these “medicinal benefits” of laughter:
Laughter decreases the secretion of stress hormones in the body while increasing the release of natural “feel good” hormones like endorphins (the same hormone responsible for the “runner’s high”).
Laughter stimulates the immune system, building our resistance to illness.
Laughter decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It expands the blood vessels to allow greater flow of blood (along with the oxygen and nutrients it brings) through the body. At the same time, laughter decreases blood pressure in the long run.
Laughter stimulates the release of natural painkillers in the body.
Laughter stimulates the release of “hormones and neuropeptides” (like dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins) related to feelings of happiness, bonding, tolerance, generosity, compassion, and unconditional love.
Laughter breaks down relational barriers and increases intimacy. Studies show that men and women who laugh together are more attracted to one another.
Laughter keeps relationships fresh.
Laughter empties the lungs of “residual air” so we can inhale higher levels of oxygen. Oxygen coursing through our body retards aging, relieves headaches, and boosts our immune system among other things.
“Laughing creates a total body response that is clinically beneficial. It exercises the facial, chest, abdominal, and skeletal muscles and improves their tone…” –Professor A. Berk of Johns Hopkins University.
PS—You can read about these and more benefits of laughter at the Laughter Wellness Institute. Check it out and enjoy a laugh. http://laughterwellness.org/
We all want our family to experience optimal physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. Without laughter, your family’s health is missing an important ingredient. So, find ways to bring laughter into your family life as often as you can. After all, the benefits of laughter for your family are no laughing matter.
My family and I just returned from our annual trip to Family Camp at Camp Christian. Once again, Jim and Terry Jones organized a wonderful weekend of relaxation, fun, and worship. We enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making new friends. This year, Tim Jones was our speaker. Tim and his wife, Lisa, minister through “Windows of Hope” with BLOC ministries in the inner city of Cincinnati. They are passionate, loving people with a great sense of humor and a deep love for Christ. Tim encouraged us to do several things to strengthen our families.
He encouraged us to “Be Real” in our homes. No one’s life is perfect. We all have our ups and downs. We grow closer, more intimate, and even stronger when we do not hide those ups and downs from one another but use them as opportunities to connect instead. It may feel vulnerable to “open up”, “get real,” and share our deepest emotions, but it will give your family an intimacy and strength you will never know otherwise.
Tim also asked the question, “What’s The Big Deal?” In this workshop, Tim shared the impact of sin in the lives of individuals and families. Every sinful action is connected to wires that “blow up” a series of consequences that can kill relationships and destroy lives. We may ask, “What’s the big deal?” but the consequences are deadly! In response, Tim encouraged us to live a life of faithfulness and integrity in our families, a life to protect them from the deadly consequences wired to sinful behaviors.
We also learned about “God’s Secret Weapon” (one of my favorite lessons, I might add). God has a “not-so-secret” weapon He has given to us, a weapon we can use to touch other people’s lives inside and outside our families. This weapon is “God’s favorite move” and has become one of mine as well. It brings release of pain and breaks the powers of loneliness. It breaks down walls and overcomes barriers. What is God’s favorite move, the secret weapon He has given to us? Kindness. One way to show kindness is through the open arms that welcome one another into the grasp of a loving hug! I think I’ll give a few extra oxytocin hugs (read 3-2-1 Release to learn about this “move”) today to celebrate “God’s favorite move.”
Finally, Tim reminded us that we have a “built in, self-activating, guilt free, God ordained party package”…and we need to use it to Celebrate family and life every day! Celebrate family and life by sharing activities like singing, dancing, laughing, and playing. After all, life is a gift. Family is a gift. Friendship is a gift. Every breath we take is a gift. Celebrate! If you have trouble coming up with ideas to celebrate family, try some of the ideas on the “Celebrate Page” of the Honor Grace Celebrate website.
One other thing, unrelated to the worship times, that I always find inspiring at family camp. Every year we have a talent show. People from preschoolers to adults share their talent. And, we truly witness some amazing talent at Camp Christian. Many times we experience the joy of watching this talent mature and grow as children grow up. Most of all though, I love that the talent show is fun and encouraging. The audience encourages each and every person who shares. There is a real sense of love and encouragement permeating the talent show. No competition. No ridicule. Just fun, love, and encouragement…a real celebration of the life and talent God has given.
Well, that’s what I learned at family camp this year. We had a great time. Thank you Jim and Terri for organizing another great weekend. We look forward to next year. Will you join us?