How Laughter Helps You Take Control Over the Uncontrollable (Holiday Edition)

“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.” ~Prof. Greg Scott

“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” ~Charlie Chaplin


Here we are, in the thick of the holiday season.

It’s that time to be happy, and cheerful, and sing-songy and chipper.

Right?

Right?

Well, truth be told, the holiday season is tough for many of us even under better political circumstances.

But right now, as we careen from one apocalyptic story to another (pick your poison as to the topic, whether it’s Republicans attacking democracy, a right-wing man-child taking over one of the largest social media platforms to spew Putin-inspired rants, pandemic news that feels shakier by the moment, or good old-fashioned climate change) things can feel especially … stressful.

Which means it’s all the more important that we intentionally cultivate honest positivity and not let ourselves drown in boundless anxiety.

Easy to say, but hard to do. I can relate.

But here’s something you can incorporate into your regular, everyday life that will make you more joyful and effective. (And you don’t even need yoga pants!)

Laughter.

I’m not kidding.

…But I’m encouraging you to kid.

By watching standup, reading a funny book, watching reruns of The Office (a family favorite), a funny movie (there are plenty of holiday rom-coms right now that may not be intentionally funny, but are still good for a chuckle) –– whatever tickles your funny bone.

Because getting in a good giggle (no matter how you do it!) can really lighten your mental load.

In fact, this “flavor” of humor even has its own label. “Coping humor” is what experts call the humor that we use to deal with adversity. And as it turns out, it’s darn effective.

It’s a fact that folks who use coping humor are more resilient. That makes logical sense, but there’s real data to back it up.

And there are plenty more studies where those came from, all lauding the benefits of a good laugh.

So, there’s no real question that laughing, or having a sense of humor in the face of adversity, works. But why?

Simple. Humor – and having a sense of it – helps us to gain control over an otherwise uncontrollable situation. During the Vietnam War, American POWs used humor to rebel in ways no other POW group had ever done. 

Even when their physical situation was both horrific and entirely out of their control, they took control over the only things they could: their reaction and their perspective.

Humor played a huge role in that.

More recently, during the pandemic experts on coping humor have pointed to the coping mechanisms used by hospital staff faced with too many patients, and not enough space or hands to help them. How did they deal with that grim reality? Gallows humor.

As the old saying goes – they didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry.

Right now, it’s easy to feel like you have no control. And our activist stress level increases in direct relation to our feelings of powerlessness. So taking action (making calls, writing postcards, attending protests) gives us back some measure of control.

Good news! Humor does the same thing!

But honestly, the very last thing you need this holiday season is someone else telling you that you have to be cheerful. (SMILES EVERYONE!)

That’s not my point. Quite the opposite, actually.

Because it’s when you feel most stressed, most anxious, and most down-in-the-dumps that a good laugh would do you the most good.

And if you don’t have a friend who’s a perennial cut-up to call, you really can just cue up a stand up comedian, read a funny story (my favorite go-to is Hyperbole and a Half, http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/, which never fails. Seriously, I double-dog-dare you not to laugh. Really. Right now you should go read it.), watch old reruns of your favorite sitcoms, watch funny animal videos… you get the picture.

Take it easy on yourself. This time of year is hard enough.

Laugh, if you can.

You’re not making light of the challenges we face – or the season – or life.

You’re just taking control of it.

Let’s get to work.

(P.S. I’m again sending you the link to http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/ because it is THAT funny.)

Actions for the Week of December 13, 2022

Wednesday: Join Simon Rosenberg and Tom Bonier for an Election Recap

Simon Rosenberg of NDN and Tom Bonier were spot on in their election analysis. On Wednesday, Simon and Tom will offer their thoughts about what happened, and what it means for 2024. Tara McGowan of Courier Newsroom will moderate an extended discussion and Q and A. This will be Simon and Tom’s most extended public appearance together since the election and will be a great opportunity to reflect our success in 2022, and look ahead to 2024. Mark Riddle of Future Majority will be offering some introductory remarks to kick off the conversation.

Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_va29I93MTIieJvRs2y3ZfA

Blue Texas!

Y’all! Last week was the launch of Blue Texas – a joint effort of Power the Vote and Every State Blue, to support permanent voter protection efforts and make sure Democratic nominees for state legislature have foundational funding. It was so great!

If you missed the launch, you can watch it here. https://vimeo.com/779928301

If you’re in Texas, hold Texas close to your heart, or just see the potential here and want to pitch in to help an effective, efficient way to both beat back voter suppression AND encourage great people to run for office, we’d love to have you in the Blue Texas community.

Join here: https://bluetexas.democracyengine.com/join_texas

Learn more at www.BlueTexas.org

The Zombie Issue: The Debt Ceiling

How many times will Republicans play chicken with the American economy?

To recap, the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending. It simply recognizes the spending that has already occurred, and promises to pay that obligation. Not raising the debt ceiling is like saying you know you’ve run up your credit card but you’re not paying anything over X.

Not smart in your personal life. Not smart for the government to do, either.

But, as you would expect, Republicans have been squawking that they would not raise the debt ceiling until they exacted changes to Medicare and Social Security, or get some other concessions.

Now, if they do not raise the debt ceiling, the economy would be a pretty wild ride. The federal government would default on its obligations and its credit would be impacted. That is nontrivial.

We have just days before Congress retires for the session, and just a few days ago reports surfaced that Democratic leadership would not look to raise the debt ceiling before leaving for the holidays.

Aaargh!

So, this week, if you’re represented by a Democrat (in the House or the Senate), give them a call and ask them to do what they can to raise the debt ceiling this year, when we have a chance to do so without this extended drama. If it doesn’t get done before the end of the year, expect a lot of debt-ceiling actions next month.

WHEW! GO TEAM!

P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

P.P.S.: If you want to help support this work you can do so via Patreon at
https://www.patreon.com/smalldeedsdone or via paypal at https://www.paypal.me/smalldeeds
My deepest gratitude in advance.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every email! We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.

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