Laughter and a Healthier You!
When was the last time you had a belly laugh so hard the tears wouldn’t stop flowing? Did you know that 20 seconds of laughter can double the heart rate for 3 –5 minutes, which is equivalent to 3 minutes of strenuous rowing? Also, did you know that some reports indicate that, on average, a child laughs 4 00 times per day whereas an adult only laughs about 15 times ? Based on the research of Norman Cousins, author of Anatomy of an Illness, t he old expression, “laughter is the best medicine,” may turn out to be true .
We all have an inner child wanting to come out and play. It doesn’t matter how old we are, it is important to our health (both physically and psychologically) to laugh and just be silly!
I have listed some suggestions below for assisting you with reducing your stress and bringing out your inner child.
- Jumble up your daily routine . Our daily lives can become so monotonous over time that we get stuck into the same comfortable, non-exciting routine. We can break up that regular schedule by changing things up a bit. For example, you can take a different route to school/work, get up on the other side of the bed, or ask for a standing ovation when you drop something.
- Learn to laugh at yourself. Many of us take life so seriously that we forget that it is all right to make a mistake and laugh at ourselves. If something embarrassing happens to you, take the risk.
- Turn a negative situation into a positive one. We often do not have control over a situation but we can change how we perceive it. If there is an event coming up that you are dreading ( e.g., doctor’s appointment, family reunion), create a reward for getting through that event. It will give you something to look forward to after everything is over.
- Surround yourself with positive people. We all have had a negative friend or co worker . Spending a lot of time with that person tends to bring us down. Laughter is contagious. Make sure that you surround yourself with happy, funny people. They will help to lift you up and remain positive throughout the day.
- Smile! Did you know that it takes 4 muscles to smile and 8 muscles to frown? I t takes more effort to be sad than it does to be happy! Make an effort to turn that frown upside down— it is difficult to be negative when you are smiling.
- Join or begin a Laughter Yoga group. Laughter Yoga was created by Dr. Madan Kataria, a doctor from Mumbai, India. The first L aughter Y oga club was held in 1995 and now there are approximately 6,000 laughter clubs in 60 different countries. Laughter Y oga is a combination between yoga breathing and unreserved laughter. Club members have indicated improvements in their health after attending these sessions. What could be better than getting together with a group of people to just laugh? To see if there is a L aughter Y oga club in your city, visit http://laughter-club.meetup.com.
- Surround yourself with humorous reminders. Place items that make you smile in the locations where you spend the most time. For instance, if you work at a cubicle, place picture frames of loved ones around your desk and vacations that you have been on or plan to go on. You could even set your computer wallpaper with similar pictures.
- Maximize those things that make you laugh. Create a list of television shows and movies that make you laugh out loud. Make it a habit to sit down in front of the television on the nights of the week that the programmed show will broadcast. If you have a favorite movie, buy the DVD and watch it in times of stress.
- Be playful and imaginative! Bring out that inner child by dressing up for Halloween, playing April Fools’ Day jokes, or giving gag gifts.
Beth Hart, M.P.H.
Beth Hart is an adjunct professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences. Beth has a background in health education and has taught at five different colleges. She has also worked as a health educator in a variety of health care settings including a hospital and two health insurance companies. Beth currently teaches Stress Management at Kaplan University and also a health and w ellness course through University of Phoenix.