Laughter Elicits Your Innate Joy
I remember Lino standing at the front of the room, inviting us to participate in a ‘laughter exercise.' It felt awkward and phony at first, but soon the laughter became real. The whole room was rippling with laughter, we were doubled over holding our bellies, stomping on the floor, waving our arms around, and the laughter got louder and stronger until we were all hysterically laughing. It felt like a cosmic trance, I was transported to a lighter, more fluid world.
Did you know that the body can't differentiate between fake and real laughter? That experience changed me, it made me an avid participant in spontaneous laughter. If you've ever heard me on a call you will hear me laugh almost every time. At one time I considered that kind of behavior silly, I used to be so properly serious. Today, I allow my joy and laughter to flow unrestricted.
How about you? Do you censor your laughter? Do you limit your levity? Is there a rule book that you follow on where, when, how and with whom you allow the experience of unrestricted joy?
“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into
a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.” ~ Jean Houston
Laughter Is Good For You
There are numerous studies that show humor and laughter help people live longer, happier lives, be more creative and productive, and have more energy with less physical discomfort. Norman Cousin's groundbreaking book, Anatomy of an Illness, gave an in depth account of how he healed a spinal condition through the use of laughter. Study after study report the same thing: laughter IS the best medicine!
Laughter is great for your body. It releases endorphins which creates an overall sense of well being and even relieves pain temporarily. It boosts the immune system and decreases levels of stress hormone, while increasing infection-fighting antibodies boosting your resistance to disease. It's also good for your heart, increasing blood flow and lowering your blood pressure. It promotes relaxation.
Laughter shifts your thinking. It creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Laughter is an instant energy boost, obliterating depression, sadness, and anger. It relaxes your mind and recharges your energy. It shifts your perspective, allowing you to see new options and solutions.
Laughter creates connection. Laughter is connective glue. Gretchen Rubin, of The Happiness Project, shares that “when people laugh together, they tend to talk and touch more and to make eye contact more frequently.” Laughter is contagious and easy to ‘catch'. It doesn't matter whether your native tongue is English, Spanish, or French. Laughter is a universal language. We all get it.
Laughter enhances your being. Laughter increases your spontaneity and joy. It is an all encompassing energy. There is NO room for judgment, resentment, doubt, or criticism when you are laughing. They are mutually exclusive states. Laughing elicits presence, where life is in flow and all is well in your world.
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” ~ Victor Borge
3 Tips to Start Your “Laughter Practice”
There's nothing that you really need to learn to reap the benefits of laughter. You already have the right equipment and all it takes is a willingness to pull it out of your bag of tricks. Here are 3 ways you can get started right away:
1. Learn to Laugh at Yourself. Perfectionism and criticism are signposts you need to call in the reinforcements. There is nothing that will pull you into a spiral of sullenness than to focus on your woes. Lighten up! Don't take yourself so seriously. Life is a mix of right and wrong, good and bad, and it's all relative. The first thing to do when you fall short of your own expectations is to engage in a hearty chuckle. Laughter is the most appropriate response. Your energy is then free to work creatively on your behalf.
2. Watch a Funny Movie. Have some of your favorite movies on hand, whether they're on dvd, your dvr or You Tube. It doesn't matter whether anyone else enjoys them, just make sure they make you laugh every time. Sometimes comedy shows and stand up comics do the trick, sometimes they don't. Make sure that it's not about sarcasm. The energy of the flick should be uplifting. Personally, I Love Lucy does it for me every time, especially the episode when she and Ethel are in Italy and they're making wine. You know which ones do it for you.
3. Spend Time With Children. Children are totally tapped into their aliveness and joy. Notice a baby, they smile awake or asleep. And, children laugh all the time. How many times a day do you smile? I bet a kid could out smile you! One of the things that I do on a regular basis is spend time with my granddaughter, Alexa. She squeals when she sees me. Her whole body ripples with pure delight and joy. If I've had a downer day all I need is seconds in her company and I am completely transported. Children are great models for ‘body smiles' not only is joy embodied in their laughter, it's also in their eyes and their entire body.
Your ability to laugh with life is a measure of your resiliency, your joyful perspective and your trust in an abundant universe. Laughter is priceless medicine, it's free, it feels good, and it's fun! Let's laugh!
Image: Mila Laughing Out Loud, Boudewijn Berends