Tag Archives: laughter

Intent of the Day: Laugh

laugh

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”
– Audrey Hepburn

There is something wonderful about people who laugh. They shine a little bit. They’re a little lighter. They can roll with the punches a little easier. We’re trying to get some of that in our lives. As it turns out, laughter is not only good for your spirit, but also your body and mind. So today our intent is to laugh because we think we need it. You too? Here are 3 resources to help: Continue reading

5 Ways Your Smartphone Can Improve Your Mood

You pick up a cell phone several times a day, but can you imagine a cell phone picking you up? Well, they do it all the time. We all know your cell phone makes your life easier. You can order pizza, get directions, chat with friends and even send photos when you feel like doing so, but this little device can also make you feel better when you feel blue. There’s truly no limit to what technology can do these days. Next time you feel down, pick up your cell phone. It will return the favor.

Hunt for Feel Good Music

Music - an art for itself - Headphones and music notes / musical notation system

If you are feeling low, the easiest way to pick yourself up is to play a song. With Music Hunt, an app for smartphones, you can find the right song to pick you up. Search for an old favorite, such as a hit from the 80s, or surf through a variety of recent hip-hop hits. Satisfy your craving for some feel good rock ‘n roll, sure to blow your blues away in a heartbeat.

This app is perfect for rainy day blues. Add this to all of your work phones and give your crew something to smile about on those long flights. You can do this in a few clicks (or taps) with using just your tablet or smartphone.

Stream a Video, Enjoy a River of Laughter

Streaming videos on your phone is a great way to improve your mood. With today’s phones, you have hundreds of video apps to choose from. Open the YouTube app and search for funny, short videos for a quick laugh to lighten your mood. It’s also free, which will make you smile.

Hulu Plus is also available on select smartphones. You can immediately brighten your mood by watching your favorite sitcom on your phone. You can also download and watch comedies on your phone for a minimal price of around $7.99.

Crack a Joke a Day

laughter

Many apps feature jokes to force you to look at life from a different perspective. Try YoMama Jokes or go for quantity with the app 5000 Jokes, or Best Bar Jokes. All of these apps will make your mood improve immediately.

Chat With a Friend

Another mood-booster is to have a chat with a friend. Open up your favorite messaging app and send a quick note to a friend, or repair a damaged relationship with a nice text. It’s a little easier to start a conversation using texts.

Relive Feel Good Moments

Grand Cayman Vacation

Load your phone with your favorite pictures of friends, family, and great moments. Put them in a folder called “fun photos” or something similar and browse photos when a blue mood strikes. You’ll start thinking about all the fun times in your life.

You always have your phone with you. When you feel blue, use these suggestions and add a little creativity to turn your smartphone into your personal mood-booster.

 

Image Via Flickr by photosteve101

Image Via Flickr by gagilas

Image Via Flickr by c&rdunn

Deepak Chopra: Can We Reduce Physical Pain?

One of the most common questions people ask is: Are there non-prescription ways of decreasing pain? Most people don’t want to experience pain, whether physical or emotional, but sometimes the common methods we have for dealing with it are insufficient. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak addresses this classic concern and offers several tips for reducing physical pain.

Some tips for minimizing physical pain:

  • Any form of physical exercise will reduce pain in almost every chronic illness because exercise gives you an endorphin boost and endorphins have pain reliving properties.
  • Practicing yoga, meditation, and breathing techniques is very important and they are all extremely useful when tackling pain.
  • Laughter, music, positive social interactions and gentle massages are also good ways to deal with pain.
  • Common misconceptions are that drinking alcohol or smoking will ease pain but they actually make it worse.

What methods do you have for reducing pain? Let us know in the comments section!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak’s book, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul!

Laughter Is Sexy: 6 Surprising Benefits to Laughing

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We all like a good laugh, don’t we? It releases stress, puts us in a good mood, and generally makes us feel better about life.

Were you taught in your childhood,as I was, to put a lid on your laughter and keep it down? I remember giggling in church, at school, on solemn occasions and getting frowned at by adults. This often made me laugh even more, as I tried to stuff down the irrepressible gales of guffaws welling up from deep inside me. Or maybe there wasn’t much to laugh about in your childhood. Whatever the case, laughter has many dimensions of benefits for us, and I want to share them with you now. I have been practicing Laughter Meditation for over twenty-five years. My life has transformed, and the same can happen for you.

Laughter is good for us in every way: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Among its many benefits:

1. LAUGHTER STIMULATES PHYSICAL HEALING

Scientific research has now proven that laughter does indeed, improve our health and well-being.  If you can laugh when you are stressed, anxious, worried, even if you are ill, you feel better sooner. Laughter lowers blood pressure, boosts immune function, decreases stress hormones, relaxes muscles, assists in pain reduction (you can “forget” about the pain for a few moments),and is good cardiac exercise. Laughter brings energy from within you to heal, soothe, and inspire.

2. LAUGHTER ENHANCES OUR CREATIVITY

What I have noticed after numerous episodes of laughter is that as our energetic systems open up we are flooded with more creative energy. As old conditionings are released the unconscious opens and insights come. The relaxation of body and mind provides a gateway for creativity to come forward into expression.


3. LAUGHTER IS REJUVENATING AND REGENERATING AND KEEPS US YOUNG

When we laugh and smile we loosen up and generally feel better. The face collects a lot of our stress  and when we laugh a tremendous amount of tension from the face, neck and
head is released. This gives us a more youthful appearance. It reminds us about having fun. Maybe  today, do something just for the sheer fun of it. And think of the money you save on cosmetic  procedures to make you look “younger”! Laughter radiates your youthful spirit through your eyes and whole being


4. LAUGHTER IS SEXY

Laughter is a positive energy vibration and helps attract people to you that are good for you. It is  beneficial for anyone who is sexually blocked. It releases inhibitions and opens up the energetic channels, bringing us directly in touch with our energy. The Law of Attraction states that you get what you vibrate. Laughter helps keep your energy at a highly positive vibrational level so you attract good things. And who isn’t sexy when they laugh?

5. LAUGHTER IS GOOD FOR RELATIONSHIPS

Laughter draws people together, doesn’t it? Many couples who do the Laughter Meditation together tell me they find a tremendous improvement in their relating. They discover another side of each other, the playful, humorous side which gives a relief to the more serious part of life concerned with work, money, housework, the kids, etc. Remember the old adage: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Well, it doesn’t do much for Jill either!

Laughter improves relating with our children. They are our teachers in this regard. They laugh easily, and often. Children remind us of the magical qualities of wonder, imagination, spontaneity, playfulness, being fun and funny, which we all need to balance the stresses of life.

Relating with family members, colleagues at work, neighbors, people in the grocery store, commuters in traffic jams, for example, can be enhanced with laughter and smiles. Camaraderie is created, and a longing we all have for connection is fulfilled. Laughter heals feelings of isolation and separation and reminds us that we are all humans, living together on this earth. We all make mistakes and have flaws and laughter eases the wounds and reminds us that we are all loved and connected.(And I mean,of course, laughing with people, not at them.)

6. LAUGHTER OPENS OUR HEARTS

Laughter creates an opening to the love, compassion, courage, trust and intuitive wisdom that vibrates within us all. It’s difficult to hate a person you are laughing with. It’s difficult to be afraid of a person you are laughing with.

When we laugh we become more vulnerable, and approachable. We fall into trust and drop our defenses, becoming more willing to be flexible, and accepting. This helps towards preventing or stopping conflicts. Tensions are eased and we see one another’s points of view better. As we become more relaxed, the world around us changes and becomes more relaxed.

Laughter brings a healing quality to our relationships and reminds us that, at the root, we all want the same things: to love and be loved, to be happy and at peace.

7. LAUGHTER GIVES US A GLIMPSE OF FREEDOM FROM THE MIND

For those moments when you are totally laughing, you are free of the mind. All your problems disappear for a few moments, don’t they? In those seconds of hilarity you are brought from worry to joy, from tension to relaxation, from fear to trust, from timidity to courage. In other words, from the mind to the heart. You cannot think and laugh at the same time. In those moments when you are out of the mind you are in meditation. In those seconds the mind is not and you are, in the present moment. Laughter serves as a bridge to take us deeper into meditation, into inner peace, wisdom and joy.

Here is the laughter meditation technique I use.

Do this as often, and for as long as, you like. And remember to laugh, a lot, every day!

Step One: (One Minute)
Start laughing. You can shout out “Yahoo” three times and raise your arms up in the air,
or use a funny Youtube video, or any idea you have to start yourself laughing.(It’s easier, especially at the beginning, to do this with at least one other person.) Do not speak in any language you understand. Just laugh.

Step Two: (One Minute)
Sit in silence with your eyes closed. If there is still laughter bubbling up, allow it. Never repress your laughter. Eventually your laughter transforms  into a joy-filled silence.

For more information on Laughter Meditation

For Pragito’s latest book “Laughter, Tears, Silence”, guided meditation CDs, and to join her Laughing Buddhas Network community (it’s FREE!) check in at her website www.discovermeditation.com

*See research by Dr.Lee Berk and Dr.Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California

The Nine Thanksgiving Lessons Cancer Taught Me

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude.

Thanksgiving is the ultimate American holiday: food, family and football. We don’t even have to buy presents. It marks the beginning of the holiday season and a festive way to start the slide into New Years Day. With all the celebration, sometimes the meaning of the holiday, giving thanks, slips right by. I know I haven’t always stopped to feel gratitude as much as I could. This year I’m particularly thankful for some things that I’d like to share with you.

Eight months ago my wife, Sharon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I’ve told patients for years that cancer is the scariest word in the English language. But as you would expect, it hit me much harder as the spouse than it ever did providing the empathy I always provide to patients. Cancer changes your status in life from being well to being a survivor, that new dimension the American Cancer Society calls every living person with a diagnosis of cancer. It doesn’t mean cured or in remission. It means just what is says…surviving.

Over the past eight months many things have changed for me and my family and finally, the future is looking bright again. Despite the many challenges, I’ve learned some things that aren’t taught well in medical books and I’ve reinforced some things I know intellectually, but now know first hand. I hope these lessons are useful to you if you are one of your loved ones faces the all too prevalent cancer.

1.      Tell people what’s going on. I don’t mean it’s the first thing you say and I don’t think it’s necessary to tell every acquaintance or the cashier at the supermarket, but it seems that everyone either has cancer or has a family member who has it. According to the American Cancer Society, about 12 million Americans currently have invasive cancer and about one in three people will get cancer sometime during their lifetime. People definitely can relate to it. It’s easier to come out and just say so. Then if you’re tired or don’t want company, people will understand. And if you need help, people will pitch in. Believe me, it’s no shame or sign of weakness.

2.     Cancer changes your life and the lives of those around you. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I’d say that when someone in the village gets cancer, it affects the entire village. It affects everyone we hold dear. Life is precious. We all know we won’t live forever, but appropriately, we don’t think about that most of the time. When someone gets cancer, they are a parent or a child or a sibling or all of the above. And all of those relationships are in peril. For us, the outpouring of love from friends and family has been both humbling and a source of strength. Family members have been totally available and really demonstrated their affection. Friends call and check in. They’ve all shown their support in so many ways. It’s very healing and I think it has been healing for them as well. People want to make her happy because she is worthy and as Clayton Christensen writes in his book How Will You Measure Your Life, Harper Collins, Boston 2012, p117, it deepens their commitment to her and hers to them.

3.    Pray and have others pray for you. I’m not sure we need a statistician to tell us whether or not G-d exists, but if you don’t believe in religion and you do believe in math, here is the math theory that states your more likely to be correct if you think “yes.” Almost without fail, when people found out of Sharon’s diagnosis, they offered to pray for her. One of my Catholic friends arranged for his priest to say a prayer weekly and for a special mass for her in a year. The priest did not know that my wife is Jewish, and asked, “What part of Ireland is she from.” My friend responded, “From the good part.” One of my mother’s friends who is a nun asked her entire cloister to pray for Sharon. Every denomination offered their positive thoughts and prayers. These acts of personal giving offer great comfort and support; and both spiritually and mathematically, I believe they help.

4.     Meditate. Meditation is a great medication. We got some guidance and support from our good friends Ed and Deb Shapiro. Sharon uses meditation in particular when there is any discomfort or if there are procedures. She has several phrases she says over and over, but you can use any that give you comfort such as “I will survive,”  or from Deb Shapiro, “May I be well, May I be happy, May all things go well for me.” One 5-syllable phrase often used in meditation is Om Namah Shivaya. The power of meditation is great and very sustaining during this and other challenging times. My fitness instructor gave her a t-shirt with the phrase Warrior. It seemed to fit.

5.      Find relaxing music. Music is an incredibly powerful tool for healing. When Sharon was in the hospital she listened to my Lullaby, Sleep Tight and Relax CDs. Ironically, I had written the Lullaby CD for her father when he had cancer and couldn’t sleep and it helped him greatly. The music key choices and order, and the tempo of the instrumental songs, create deep relaxation. Her caregivers would literally slow down when they entered her hospital room. Creating a peaceful environment that you can control is a great help both in the hospital and doctors appointments and at home. Find your favorite peaceful music and use it. Headphones that keep out noise and surround you with peacefulness are a great asset when going for procedures.

6.      Spouses (significant others) need time too. For that window of time, I changed my priorities. My primary agenda was to be supportive and available. That meant cancelling many of my commitments, going to her appointments, pitching in on household chores that are usually not on my plate, etc. But there are a few things that I held on to. Going to my fitness appointments and music sessions each week were sacred. I may have rescheduled them, but I was not going to miss them. They kept my head on straight and were great stress reducers. I also made time to write music every day. It’s therapy in 88 piano keys. If you were to listen to the songs as my music teacher Ben Schwendener does each week, it was pretty clear how I was doing, or at least how I was doing at that moment. But then it came out and it freed up my emotions and kept me even. Find your release and weave it into the week. You deserve it and you need it.

7.      Gratitude is essential. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude really helps. Andrew Weill suggests keeping a “gratitude journal.” Just write down everything you have to be grateful for each night before you go to bed. He believes doing this for a week can keep you happier for up to six months. I know it helps. I try to come with three things I’m grateful for every day. And the things you can be grateful for can be big or small; you can keep food down, the beauty of a flower, the joy of a friend’s visit, your incision has stopped hurting, the nurse got your blood on the first stick. The list is endless. It’s the awareness that has to be developed and it makes a huge difference.

8.      Living in the moment. One of my wife’s friends is also dealing with cancer. When she found that she had a recurrence, her comment was, “I’ve had 7 wonderful months.” How many of us squander days, weeks or even years mired in unhappiness or lamenting that everything isn’t perfect? Cancer, especially one that isn’t assured of a cure, starts a survivor’s clock ticking. Make every second count.

9.      Laugh often and loud. Researchers in Norway found that among near death patients, maintaining a good sense of humor increased their odds of survival—by 31 percent. Make humor a part of each day. Look at anything and everything with an eye for what humor can be found. Believe me, with careful inspection, there is humor all around us. Keep laughter reminders, exaggerate annoyances, carry a prop, state your fear out loud and then laugh at it, or find a laugh buddy – someone with a sense of humor who will encourage regular ha ha’s. Laughter is contagious. It triggers our mirror neurons.

 

We have just completed the third phase of the triathlon – radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. So far all the signs are good. My medical and personal belief is that Sharon will be cured. But in the meantime, we’ve got some tools to help us cope. I hope they will be helpful to you. In closing, I wrote a song for the American Cancer Society called I Will Survive. I’ve made a free copy of it (click here) available for you to download.

Laughter: The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have Meditating

In the latest episode of The Chopra Well’s 30 DAYS OF INTENT, Natalie and Iman get silly with some laughing meditation. They visit Stephanie Nash who leads them in an intimate and, at times, goofy session. We interviewed Stephanie on her experience teaching laughing meditation and how the practice has changed her life.

The Chopra Well: We love laughing! And Natalie and Iman do, too. Why is it so hard, then, to laugh in the more controlled setting of a laughing meditation session?

Stephanie Nash: Laughing is a spontaneous act – as we all know. Why are we not, then, laughing all the time?

Well, with the stresses and worries of life, our minds become occupied with concerns of the past and future, with less room to allow the natural response to freely take over. We develop tensions that become habitual of holding back our tears, of swallowing them with tightness in the tongue, throat, and jaw. Laughter is not something that we tend to deliberately stifle – it’s usually more of a case of not leaving space for it, and thus it’s harder to notice how tension makes it less likely.

“Why is it so hard … in a controlled setting”?  Because something that is spontaneous and happens naturally will be easier. That, however, is not the point here. The key is not necessarily to have it feel the same, the key is to stretch so that there is more tendency to laugh and smile as natural responses in life. And it’s been proven that simply doing the actions of smiling and laughing there are physiological, psychological and emotional benefits, even when the laugh or smile is not authentic.

CW: If we tend to hold ourselves back from laughing spontaneously, what are some things we can do to open up and loosen the muscles a bit?

SN: One way of “stretching” or “lubricating” the pathway is to deliberately smile or laugh – without the natural impulse. Yes, it often can feel quite false at first. What I’ve tried to do is make it an exercise that is practical and can be done by anybody during the course of his or her day. Just 30 seconds 2-3 times a day, can help shift any habit pattern of sadness, depression, anger, or fear.

CW: Natalie and Iman seemed a little bit wary at first to laugh. Is it ever hard or awkward for you when you’re first teaching someone the practice?

SN: I’d say that most people are a bit surprised at the notion of “laughing for no reason.”  Some, as I believe Natalie brought up, might even find it to be insane. So right there you’ve got concepts and judgments that get in the way of them experiencing the potential freedom that could be experienced. Does that make it more challenging for me to help people experience the possibilities? Sure, but that’s my job. And some people are going to be more naturally inclined to laugh or open to the possibility than others.

Also, and this is not unimportant, this was the first time I’d ever taught anyone who hadn’t come of their own choosing. Also, I did not know until moments before Natalie and Iman arrived that they had no idea what they were heading into. So that made it particularly challenging for everyone, I think. All those factors added together to create a unique challenge given the nature of this work, but working through challenges usually leads to some interesting growth.

Also, I’d say that 95% or more of the time that I present laughing meditation it’s to a group, and that makes a big difference. Different groups have different dynamics, but there are always a few people who really let out a huge guffaw that affects the group, and/or there are a couple of people with very funny, unique laughs, and that alone can set off the group into peels of laughter. Hearing a good laugh can be like being tickled, which is what I try to supply with my laugh. Then, after someone has experienced that, when they attempt to do it on their own, it’s definitely easier because the natural recall of the positive experience of the group returns and supports the process.

So, when teaching people privately, it will naturally be a bit more challenging. It can be easier to teach one person than two, depending on if it’s a comfortable, intimate relationship or if they are relatively new to each other. So then, naturally, it’s not only more difficult to abandon oneself to the laugh during the teaching, but at home, the remembering of that initial discomfort may be recalled, reinforcing more resistance.

CW: Do you practice laughing meditation daily? Have you noticed any effects of laughing meditation on your life or overall health?

SN: Yes, I practice the smiling practice 3-20 times a day, and the laughing practice I employ if I realize I have not heard the sound of my laugh that day. Because I do this a lot, I laugh a lot and am more prone to laughing. But when I work as a meditation teacher with people in deep pain or grief, laughing is not the natural or appropriate activity, so I use the laughing meditation to balance. It’s like taking a “positive” vitamin, in the same way we may review our day – Did I exercise? Drink enough water? Meditate? One can notice if one let out a good deep laugh that day, and it’s an easy fix.

Since I started employing laughter and smiling, I’ve been happier and am more motivated to move, create, and serve. I notice many people commenting on how much younger I look.  I’m 55 years old now, and I probably feel better and stronger than I did in my mid-30’s.

And there is also a tangible shift in my life circumstances and relationships from this practice. An undeniable shift is on job opportunities, people wanting to assist me, or come to my workshops. I mean, who doesn’t want to be around a happy person? And the relationships and students I draw into my life reflect it back, so I am then not just generating it myself but receiving it from others. This triggers a quite authentic impulse to smile or laugh, and this lovely positive feedback loop develops. When smiling and laughing, you notice the world smiling and laughing back, and it feels like the world is buoying you up.

The last thing I feel I should say is that I find laughter to be a wonderful and totally underutilized component to happiness. When I’m counseling or teaching meditation to someone, I always also emphasize exercise, getting out in nature, employing mindfulness in daily life, along with some kind of fun, creative energy release. But there is no question that smiling and laughing can supply the fuel for all that.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and don’t miss Tuesday’s episode on orgasmic meditation!

Re-thinking Reincarnation

Of the many choices we are given every day, we all know that we can’t choose our parents.

Or can we?

I have a friend who believes that we indeed choose our parents before we even enter into this life, and that we choose them based on the lessons our soul wants to learn. Be it a desire to learn patience, detachment or total self-acceptance, we choose parents who challenge us (the word “challenge” being up for interpretation) to find this within ourselves. According to my friend, we then spend our lifetime interacting with people – bosses, friends, teachers – who resemble our parents in one way or another, and we continue learning these lessons if we are open and willing. If we don’t get it all down in our alotted time, so says my friend, we keep coming back – we keep coming back to planet earth until our lessons are learned and our soul can finally find its rest.

If this is true, then know that I am doing everything I can to make sure I get my stuff straightened out in this lifetime. Why? Because, to be quite frank, I have no intention of having to relive junior high. Once was enough.

So when your new boss not only represents your mother, but is your mother, that’s when things start to get very amusing. Yes, you read that correctly: among my many ongoing creative projects, I am now officially working as a content creator for my mother’s tech company.

This should be interesting.

Though the likelihood that I’ll now be sentenced to return to this planet with a spray tan and awkward highlights has now increased about five-fold, I have to admit, I’m totally looking forward to what awaits. My mom might be intimidating to many of her employees, but I know her as the woman who wears flannel pajamas and does crosswords while watching TV at a deafeningly loud volume. In other words, let the immature stunts and office pranks begin. (Just kidding, mom.)

All challenges aside, it goes without saying that my mom is my biggest champion, which is the biggest reason why I’m looking forward to our new “work relationship.” However, know that when she came down on me about my rather youthful office attire today, I whined like a six year old. While not reliving junior high is an incentive to learn to stop snapping at my mother when she comments on my apparel, I’m just not there yet.

When I called my friend Rob to debrief after day one, I re-hashed my reflections as noted above, laughter reverberating throughout my car. I was reminded that while I may well be making an encore performance on planet earth, at least I will go down laughing this time.

In the end, perhaps that’s the biggest and best lesson of them all.

7 Ways Humor Heals

Of all my tools to combat depression and negativity, humor is by far the most fun. And just like mastering the craft of writing, I’m finding that the longer I practice laughing at life–and especially it’s frustrations–the better I become at it, and the more situations and conversations and complications I can place into that category named “silly.”

G. K. Chesterton once wrote: “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” And Proverbs 17:22 says that “a happy heart is good medicine.” I’d add that human beings can heal (at least partially!) from a host of different illnesses if they learn how to laugh. Here are just a few ways our bodies, minds, and spirits begin to mend with a dose of humor.

1.Humor combats fear.

I know this first hand, having sat in a community room of a psych ward watching a video of a comedian poke fun at depression. Like everyone else occupying a chair in that room, I was scared to death. Of many things … That I would never smile again. Or love again. Or even WANT to love again. I was fearful of life, and everything it involved.

That panic didn’t instantly transform into a hearty chuckle once the psych nurse popped in the funny video. But the climate of the room was noticeably different. Patients began to open up more, to share some of the details they had left out in the prior group therapy session.

Humor disengages fear because it changes your perspective: of the past and of the present. The traumatic childhood episode loses its tight grip on your heart if you can place it into the “ridiculous” category of other stories from the past. With a playful perspective, you can remove yourself from the marital problem that has you debilitated with anxiety. Laughter forces a few steps–some much-needed distance– between a situation and our reaction. We all would do well to follow the advice of Leo Buscaglia: “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. And swing!”

2. Humor comforts.

Charlie Chaplain once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.” I suppose that’s why some of the funniest people out there– Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Art Buchwald — have journeyed through periods of torment.

There is an unspoken message hidden within a chuckle–even the slightest cackle– that says this: “I promise, you’ll get through this.” Just like the comforting hug of your mom when you were three. In fact, New York City’s Big Apple Circus has used humor to console sick children since 1986, when they started sending teams of clowns into hospital rooms with “rubber chicken soup” and other fun surprises. “It’s for the children, yes,” explains Jane Englebardt, deputy director of the circus, in an “American Fitness” article. “But it’s also for the parents who, when they hear their children laugh for the first time in days or weeks, know everything’s going to be O.K.”

3. Humor relaxes.

Like any exercise, laughing relaxes you, and works against chronic stress that most Americans wear on the shoulder. Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, explains why this is so in a 2005 “Reader’s Digest” article:

When you push any engine, including your body, to its maximum, every once in a while it slips a gear. The ways the body manifests that are: irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, and increased sensitivity to pain. When people use humor, the autonomic nervous system just tones down a bit to take it off high gear, and that allows the heart to relax.

4. Humor reduces pain.

Apparently the psych nurses at Laurel Regional Hospital weren’t the only ones gathering patients around the TV to watch funny flicks or videos. Dr. Elias Shaya, chief of psychiatry at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore also tries to instill the importance of laughter in his patients. Says Dr. Shaya: “I advocate finding ways to laugh by watching comedy or engaging in looking up jokes and sharing them.”

“Humor rooms,” which encourage people to use humor in their recovery from any kind of illness, are now available in some hospitals. And science backs these efforts. In a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing, humor very definitely seemed to diminish pain. Says Dave Traynor, M.Ed, director of health education at Natchaug Hospital in Mansfield Center, Connecticut in “American Fitness”: “After surgery, patients were told one-liners prior to administration of potentially painful medication. The patients exposed to humor perceived less pun as compared to patients who didn’t receive humor stimuli.”

5. Humor boosts the immune system.

Whenever I prick myself accidentally, I tell a joke, and my finger doesn’t bleed! Well, not exactly. But if you are laid up in bed with a terrible strain of the flu that your four-year-old brought home from her play date yesterday, try to find an itsy-bitsy thread of humor in your situation, and you’ll be back to work in no time. Or, better yet, dwell in the misery and stay away from the cubicle longer.

In 2006 researchers led by Lee Berk and Stanley A. Tan at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Califormia, found that two hormones–beta-endorphins (which alleviate depression) and human growth hormone (HGH, which helps with immunity) increased by 27 and 87 percent respectively when volunteers anticipated watching a humorous video. Simply anticipating laughter boosted health-protecting hormones and chemicals.

In his “American Fitness” article, Dave Traynor explains a separate study at Arkansas Tech University, in which concentrations of immunoglobulin A were increased after 21 fifth graders participated in a humor program. (I’m nervous to hear about the details of that fifth-grade humor program, because my kids roar whenever you throw out a bathroom term.) Laughter was once again found to increase the ability to fight viruses and foreign cells.

6. Humor reduces stress.

The same research team at Loma Linda, California, conducted a similar study recently to see if the anticipation of laughter that was shown to boost immune systems could also reduce the levels of three stress hormones: cortisol (“the stress hormone”), epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopac, a dopamine catabolite (brain chemical which helps produce epinephrine).

They studied 16 fasting males, who were assigned to either the control group or the experiment group (those anticipating a humorous event). Blood levels showed that the stress hormones were reduced 39, 70, and 38 percent respectively. Therefore, researchers suggest that anticipating a positive event can reduce detrimental stress hormones.

7. Humor spreads happiness.

I remember playing the game of “Ha” as a young girl at my third-grade slumber party. I would lay my head of my friend’s tummy, and she would lay her head on another friend’s tummy, and so on. The first person would start the chain of laughs with a simple, “Ha!” The second person, “Ha Ha!” The third, “Ha Ha Ha,” at which point everyone would break into hysterics. About absolutely nothing. The way a person’s abdomen tightens and moves when she says “ha” makes you want to giggle.

My point: laughter is contagious. That’s why there are 5,000 laughter clubs around the world–where people laugh for no reason at all. Say what? According to Dr. Shaya of Good Samaritan Hospital, “These clubs have exercises that teach how to move your face, how to laugh more intensely to involve the shoulders, then the belly.” Laughing yoga classes are also popular today.

Originally published November 2010

photo by: y i v a

Intent of the Day: Laughter Is The Best Medicine

I intend to laugh often.”

Support Myrena’s Intent

Charlie Chaplin once said “a day without laughter is a day wasted.” But how many of us actually laugh on a daily basis? Apparently not as many. Growing up comes with its own set of not so fun side effects. We have more troubles and responsibilities. But becoming older does not have to mean that we have to become serious.

People have long said that laughter is the best medicine and we know now of its many positive physiological effects. Laughter is known to reduce pain, reduce stress, increase our body’s resistance to disease and improve the function of blood vessels and increase blood flow, which helps protect us against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. Laughter also helps us burn calories. There is plenty of evidence on why we should laugh, then why don’t we?

Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician in India, developed an exercise known as laughter yoga in the 90s. He was doing a research on an article about laughter being the best medicine, when he got the idea. He started a laughter club, where people gathered in a park and just laughed for no rhyme or reason. The concept of laughter yoga is based on the observation that our body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. We do not need to be happy or hear something funny, we can just laugh and still get the same physiological and psychological benefits. What started as 5 people in a park has now spread to thousands of laughter clubs in over 50 countries.

So take a moment today, check out from your life and just laugh. Laugh for absolutely no reason at all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXEfjVnYkqM&w=500

Photo by chris.huggins

Funny Friday: Laughing Animals (quotes & images)

“A laugh is a smile that bursts.” — Mary H. Waldrip

“The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” ― Mark Twain

“When you realize how perfect everything is, you will throw back your head and laugh at the sky.” (Unknown)

“Everyone smiles in the same language.”  (Unknown)

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo 1: wowcoolpics.blogspot.comPhoto 2: flickr.comPhoto 3: keywordpicture.comPhoto 4:  animal-animal-animal.blogspot.comPhoto 5: sanitaryum.com, all via Buzz Feed

 

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