We've all heard the phrase, “laughter is good medicine”. Good, pure laughter is so incredibly good for us that people from almost every culture in the world recognize it & are thankful when it happens. In the 1980's it became so popular that there were laughter groups & classes that people could take in order to improve their health. I won't comment on the merit of a class that offers “how to” tips on laughing (it may work) but we can all attest to feelings of well-being after a stint of genuine, hearty chuckles or giggles.
Laughing releases endorphins into your body. Endorphins are natural pain killers. So, laughter can relieve symptoms of chronic pain, while simultaneously improving your immune system by increasing T-cells. It can give you a big boost for up to 45 minutes after a good bout of laughing. While it is releasing all of those good things, it also arrests the production of stress hormones, like cortisol. Suffice it to say that all of these things have positive effects on your health, your blood pressure & your general state of mind. But how do we make natural laughter a bigger portion of our lives?
-Start by reducing the amount of pressure that you place on yourself. While it's true that we can laugh at the most stressful times in our lives, we can also crack at those times! Reducing stress is an important first step in bringing lightheartedness & laughter back into our lives. This can begin with something as simple as saying no to commitments that we are feeling obligated to do. When our schedule becomes too full, we are not able to fulfill commitments with the joy & energy that we normally would approach them with. Saying no to several things & freeing up space on your calendar can bring a lightness of heart that is unexpected.
-Saying what you really believe can also be an avenue to bring about lightheartedness & even laughter. There are far too many situations in life when we feel that we can't be open & honest about how we're feeling or what we're thinking. Feeling the need to constantly edit our feelings or thoughts can cause a myriad of problems, but one of them is the inability to laugh. You can't shut down your emotions in one area of life & expect them to be normal in other areas. It just doesn't work that way.
-Hang out with lighthearted, happy kids. Observe how they approach their world. They do not plan too far in advance. They take genuine delight in the things happening right now. They do let others know if they're overstepping their bounds. They do become absorbed in what they're working on, to the point of not hearing other people. They also laugh OFTEN about many things! Watch them & learn from them.
-Own up & let go. Work on letting go of things that you do not have control over. If there are circumstances that you're avoiding dealing with that you really have a bit of control over, take care of them, beginning with the most daunting. For the rest that you cannot control, let go.
-Take time to do the things you love. If you enjoy reading. Set aside time to do so...a few times a day. If you enjoy action movies, make time to watch one this week. If it is painting, paint. Playing music, do it! If you've been overwhelmed by too much going on recently, you may feel guilty doing these things, but there is no replacement for the relief that comes from inactivity.
-Turn off the news. Yes, you may end up being a bit less informed (I promise you that you will not be able to escape hearing about the major issues going on in the world). The benefits are that you can forget about all of the bad in the world & start looking at the good in your neighbor. As you see the good in others, it can begin to give you hope again that things are not quite as bad as what you hear or read.
-Take time to be with those you're close with. Laughter comes more naturally with those we feel close to, especially if we've spent some eventful years with them. We can look back and laugh at things that were absolutely NOT funny at the time!
All of these tips may not make you laugh constantly, but they can help lighten your load & the load of others. Emotions are often contagious. If you are lighter, chances are, those around you will feel more at ease in your presence. If you are laughing, those around you will probably start to laugh, too. The benefits to your health & the health of your loved ones could be greatly affected by your choice to approach life in a lighter way.