Inviting the Gift of Laughter into Your Life

Researchers have discovered that laughter can actually lower blood pressure and trigger a flood of endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that bring on a feeling of well-being and even euphoria. Laughter also affects our immune system. Gamma-interferon, a disease-fighting protein, rises with laughter. So do B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies and T-cells, which orchestrate our body’s immune response. Laughter can also shut off the flow of stress hormones that come into play when we feel hostility, rage or stress. Stress hormones suppress the immune system, raise blood pressure, and increase the number of platelets in the blood which can cause fatal artery blockage. Keeping a sense of humor really is serious business.

There are literally hundreds of ways to invite joy and laughter into your life without waiting until everything is going smoothly, because it never will. Finding humor can be learned, practiced, reinforced and internalized just like any other skill. Everyone has an innate sense of humor, although it may be hidden after years of neglect. Remember, those who laugh – last. Humor is an effective way to manage stress and prevent burnout. Stress is caused by our perception of events not the actual events. We can’t control what happens to us but we can control our perception of what happens to us through humor. That is power through perspective.

If we can find humor in something - we can survive it. People who are dour and gloomy exacerbate their illnesses and shorten their life spans. Laugher is as good as exercise. To stay healthy we not only have to eat right, we have to think right. Happy people treat stress as a positive challenge rather than a negative event. Being able to laugh at ourselves is mentally healthy.

By developing a sense of humor, we can increase our ability to tap creative problem-solving abilities. Humor can be an affectionate communication of insight. Using humor is one way to lobby for change without being offensive. One wife found if she clutched her heart and threw herself on the floor yelling, "Oh, you’re so right, it’s killing me!” when she and her husband started arguing, the steam suddenly left the conflict. Another woman took out a classified ad that read, “Husband for sale, cheap. Comes complete with hunting and fishing equipment, one pair of jeans, two shirts, black Lab retriever and too many pounds of venison. Pretty good guy, but not home much from October to December and from April to October. Will consider trade.” After approximately 66 telephone calls, some of them serious, the wife placed another ad: “Retraction of husband for sale cheap. Everybody wants the dog, not the husband.”

Humor is also an effective way to communicate serious messages with a light touch. For example, there was a woman who was always losing her glasses. So she decided to use humor to solve her problem. She pasted a note to her glasses case that read, “If you have these, I don’t. They are owned by a little old lady who is driving home among your loved ones. Please return.” Then she included her name and address. After she put that note on her glasses, the person who found them always quickly returned them.

Love may make the world go around, but laughter keeps us from getting so dizzy we want to get off. Humor is everywhere if we’re paying attention. Take for example the notice in the church bulletin board that read, “There will be meetings in the north and south ends of the church. Children will be baptized on both ends.” Or the sign on a hospital bulletin board that observed, “Research shows that the first five minutes of life can be the most risky.” Penciled underneath, “The last five minutes are pretty risky too.” Or the cartoon of a doctor consulting with a patient that read, “I think the problem is your gall bladder, but if you want on a second opinion, Ill say it’s your kidneys.”

There are circumstances in life we can change and circumstances we can’t. Humor helps us effectively deal with both. We don’t have to grin and bear it - we can grin and share it. We’ll discover life is so much more fun when we share more than we bear. Humor can be a wonderful way to add years to our life and life to our years – by preventing a hardening of the attitudes. Laugher is the jest medicine.

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