Many of us live under the misconception that laughter should be reserved for the good times. The reality is that humor is more necessary than ever when life hits the skids. I was just reminded of this fact when I saw my friend Linda. I'm always amazed by her sense of humor, even in light of some ongoing family issues; a husband who isn't well and serious concerns about one of her children. Somehow, she manages to find humor anyway; on any given day she is busily affording someone a good belly-laugh.
Realizing the importance of humor, one of my daily goals is to help patients, where appropriate, to see the humor in their circumstances. Once I've gotten someone in a dire situation to laugh, I know we've begun to move in a positive direction. The side benefit is that I also get a good laugh in the process!
Why is laughter so important? Two of the obvious reasons are that laughter is pleasurable and that it provides some relief from the stress du jour. There are many other explanations, however, and let's look at a few:
Physical Health Benefits of Laughter:
• Decreases the level of stress hormones such as dopamine, adrenaline and cortisol
• Increases the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters
• Helps immune system functioning by increasing the production of T-cells, interferon, and immune proteins
• Lowers blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health
Emotional and Psychological Benefits of Laughter:
• Helps put problems into healthy perspective by making them seem less significant or threatening
• Triggers creativity which in turn can help us solve seemingly unsolvable problems
• Provides a way to bond with others because people are drawn to humor
• Keeps us from taking ourselves too seriousl
So how can you increase the laughter in your life? Here's the good news: research suggests that a sense of humor does not appear to be genetic.. it is something humans acquire environmentally. So even if levity didn't play much of a part in your early life, why not develop it now? Consider these suggestions for finding your funny bone and see which work best for you:
• Create a library of your favorite funny movies or sitcoms and watch them whenever life gets the better of you.
• Engage in childhood activities that the old you wouldn't have been caught doing: Host a slumber party with your friends and stay up all night telling ghost stories; invite your friends to a "come as you are" party and insist they show up as they are; go to an amusement park and ride on the Merry-Go-Round or Roller Coaster; spend the day at the zoo. These activities will help you find the "kid" in you and give you a new perspective on old, tired concerns.
• Take your current problem and blow it up to soap opera proportions in your mind. Doing so will help you to see an element of absurdity in it, which in turn will afford you a great belly laugh!
• Put together a file of cartoons, sayings and jokes that bring tears of laughter to your eyes. When life is at its worst refer to your file. It will quickly put your problems back into perspective.
Most importantly, show those around you that you don't take yourself too seriously. Give them a laugh at your own expense, by mentioning the day you left your fly open during an important business meeting or flubbed your lines during that big presentation.
Don't hide the notion that you were't born with a sense of humor, or the excuse that you grew up in an "all-too-serious" household. Life is filled with opportunities for laughter just waiting to be discovered!
Written by Maud Purcell for YourTango.
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