Disclaimer – I normally avoid mainstream headings such as the one used today, but due to the nature of today’s topic, I thought I’d poke a little fun at the cultural nonsense that generally seduces droves of readers. While I’m admittedly out of my comfort zone with the blog post heading, please stay with me because today we delve into a very important topic.
Now that I’ve got your attention, it’s time to fill you in on a sobering fact:
A 4-year old laughs at least 300 times a day. A 40-year old, only four.*
Is it possible that 4-year olds just know better jokes?
When we were children, we innately knew what we needed to live a happy, vibrant life. For many of us, outdoor adventures peppered with hearty laughter were an essential part of our daily experience. We instinctively connected with nature knowing that it filled our spirits with pure joy. It was easy. It was effortless. It was real. We intuitively honored our physiological need for laughter with zero hesitation. There was an easy sense of flow just from letting ourselves be.
And then we grew up. Life became serious. We learned to worry more, attach more, judge more, conform more, fear more – and “BE” less. Much less. Sure there’s more responsibility as an adult but does that really mean that we need to give up the soul food of laughter?
When we prioritize bills, mortgages, careers, status, homes, cars, “stuff”, tv shows, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (the list is endless), we lose touch with our inner joy and the end result is a dull, disconnected, status quo life. We start looking outside of ourselves for fulfillment. We buy into the belief that more money, a bigger house, a better car, a more loving partner, more “stuff” will make us happier. And as we accumulate more, we feel a greater sense of emptiness. We lose the light that used to shine when we did things…just because.
How did it ever get to be this way?
The reality of today’s culture is one of speed and disconnect. This leads us to a distorted perception that we’re all so darned “busy” (the topic for an upcoming blog post). But is this really true? Have you ever considered how mortgages, careers, “stuff”, cars, television, news, stress, worry, “busyness”, Facebook and Twitter connect you to your life purpose? Do these choices enhance your life? Do they further your spiritual mission?
When we were kids – playing outside while breathing fresh air as the sun shone on our smiling faces – we were truly alive. Our spirits were filled with joy. And here’s a simple truth – there’s no reason to negate a joyful spirit in our adult lives. In order to thrive – to feel peace and joy inside – we need to give ourselves permission to laugh once again. And to laugh often! There’s a wise old saying that “Laughter is the best medicine”. And the beauty of this “medicine” is that it’s free.
Laughter is infectious. The sound of roaring, snort-filled laughter is far more contagious than any germ-filled sneeze. I don’t know about you but when I hear someone snort – or when I snort myself – I completely lose it.
When we share laughter, we instantly connect. Not only does laughter feel amazing, it actually has a number of terrific health benefits that trigger physiological changes in our bodies. For instance:
• laughter strengthens your immune system;
• it relaxes your body;
• it gives you a power packed energy boost;
• it reduces blood pressure and stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline;
• it triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good neurotransmitters;
• it improves alertness, creativity and memory;
• and it can also help reduce pain.
And if that’s not enough, laughter is also an awesome core workout (read, great abs!).
Let’s face it, when we laugh, we feel great. And the good vibrations remain long after the laughter subsides.
This is the healing power of laughter.
When my mother died in 2010, the last thing on my mind was laughter. But you see, I live with a house full of rescued animals and total abstinence from laughter is impossible when an elaborate play session ensues with something as simple as a sunbeam on the wall. I owe much gratitude to my furry family for saving me from the depths of grief for any longer than necessary. Laughter definitely expedited the healing process and it also united me with others during that difficult time.
Laughter keeps us healthy and joyful; it fosters community and connection; and it increases our capacity for building bridges. The more joyful and connected we are, the more likely others will be to join our rip-roaring, good fun, change-making club. What an awesome way to make a difference in the world!
How do you find laughter in a busy day when you’re surrounded by cranky stress-balls? Easy! Start with a simple smile. Smiling is positively contagious. I can’t tell you how many times a simple smile has relieved the tension in an otherwise much too serious situation. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wonderful woman (you know who you are Lesley B!) who is always smiling. It’s one of those smiles that shines from the inside out. In four years, I’ve yet to see her wear anything but a beautiful beaming smile. One day I asked how she does it. She replied that the mornings where things don’t necessarily start well, she forces a smile for the duration of her work commute. At first it feels fake, but by the time she arrives at work, the smile is genuine.
That is the power of a smile. We can actually alter our entire physiology with the power of one conscious thought.
Other ways to raise your laughter threshold include:
- Gratitude. Reminding yourself of the things you were grateful for each day will more than likely put a smile on your face. I’ve made a regular practice of mentally reciting the great moments in every day right before bedtime. It can be as simple as “I’m grateful for the sun in the sky today”, or “I’m grateful for how awesome I felt in today’s workout”. You get the drift. I usually recall 10-15 wonderful things about each day so that I enter the dreamworld feeling content. This helps me wake up feeling happy, refreshed and peaceful – a fantastic way to start the next day.
- Spend time with fun-loving people. There are some amazing people out there with a wonderful perspective on life – people who can see the absurdity of taking life too seriously. These are the light-filled folks who remind you to BE. They’re the energy chargers in a world full of energy suckers. Hang out with these types and watch your spirit soar!
- Spontaneity. Personally, I’ve found that many of the richest times in my life have been completely unplanned. Spontaneity is presence and presence is life. Spontaneity takes you out of your head and forces you to just go with the flow – which makes the flow of laughter more effortless as well. When you allow yourself to get lost in the now, you dive headfirst into the unknown with the power of your heart in the drivers seat. Laughter is often waiting around every corner. The more you pump your fist in the air and say “YES!” to the adventure of life, the more amazing it becomes. Spontaneity is surrender and surrender is liberation!
- Sing and dance! Bursting into spontaneous song and/or dance is a great tension reliever – and a great way to stop taking yourself too seriously. I can often be found busting a ridiculous groove to an off-key retro song. I’m neither singer nor dancer but quite frankly, I don’t care. And neither should you. Spontaneous singing and dancing are two things we do instinctively as children. And there’s no reason for it to end at childhood. It frees us from the mental confines of an all too serious adulthood. Not to mention that it’s fun and often turns into uproarious laughter, or, at the bare minimum, a huge smile.
- Hang out with animals or children. Even if you don’t live with a companion animal or child, 5 minutes in a park watching kids being kids or squirrels being squirrels is guaranteed to make you smile. Animals and children are present, spontaneous, and full of pure joy. They’re the ultimate teachers for every one of us. I live with a house full of furry goofballs who are constantly reminding me to never take life too seriously.
Learn to laugh at yourself. One of the best ways to take yourself less seriously is to share humorous or embarrassing moments when you did take yourself too seriously. I can certainly vouch for the cathartic laughter that comes from sharing my own moments of absurd seriousness. It brings me right back to what’s truly important – happiness. With that said, lighten up!
Creating ample laughter should be your homework every day. The world would be a much kinder place if we all cultivated funny. Look for the humor in every day and you’re well on your way to a happy, healthy life. And remember to laugh your abs off!
And just to prove the infectious nature of laughter, I leave you with this short video. See if you can prevent yourself from smiling. 🙂