Bantam female Timberwolves player Shayne Sutton laughs out loud while having fun mentoring a younger girls hockey team.

Bantam female Timberwolves player Shayne Sutton laughs out loud while having fun mentoring a younger girls hockey team.

BOOMER TALK: Laughter is the best medicine

Vernon columnist Carole Fawcett reminds us all to enjoy the funny things in life, it’s good for us

It is at this time of year that I have, in the past, offered up Laughter Sessions.

I’ve presented laughter sessions as keynote addresses to up to 500 people and there is nothing so powerful as to have all those people laughing together. It changes the energy in a room. Even though we could all use something like this right now, I cannot offer these sessions, due to COVID-19. So, I thought I’d share how laughter will impact on your life and you can choose to search for and find the things that make you laugh.

It’s free, we’ve known about it for centuries and there have been ongoing studies about it for decades. It’s one of the best ways to relieve stress.

I’m talking about laughter of course.

Just thinking about it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I can feel the giggles getting ready to bubble out as I type.

But then I’m a giggler and proud to be one. You can be a giggler too if you wish. But, if you have a tendency to look at life as though the glass is half empty, you might have to work a bit harder.

Think back to your childhood and ask yourself these questions. Were you told to “stop laughing” or told “don’t be so silly” or “grow up, it’s not funny”. Were you programmed to view the world as a very serious place? Was the message you received one of “you have to be serious to be successful?”

A slight shift in how you think about life can help you move from seldom smiling or laughing to seeing the funnier side of life more easily. Or, you can learn how to do simulated laughter exercises. The body does not know the difference between the genuine thing and fake laughter.

The physical benefits of laughter (fake or real) are:

  • Decrease in adrenalin (which is released when you are stressed)
  • Increase in heart rate (aerobic exercise)
  • Increase in circulation (a problem we all have as we age)
  • Decrease in blood pressure (big bonus here)
  • Increase the body’s ability to digest food (helps your metabolism work more efficiently)
  • Increase in respiratory activity (great for asthmatics)
  • Increase in blood oxygen levels (good for all parts of the body – especially the brain)

Psychologically, laughter is therapeutic and can help to increase your rapport with others, help to improve communication, decrease anxiety and tension, help to diffuse anger, is a great coping mechanism and definitely makes learning easier and more fun. Learning how to look at the funny side of life can also help with depression.

We know that stress causes illness. Dr. Hans Selye proved this with his discovery of the “fight or flight” response in the body. Basically, stress is our body’s response to a negative (or positive) stimulus. For most of us, this is a learned response. If our body releases the harmful stress chemicals too many times we become ill. So learning how to get in touch with your inner child, giving yourself permission to see the funny side of life, changing your attitude and making better choices can all work together to make your life less stressful and more joyful. It is all part of a healthier lifestyle and goes hand in hand with good nutrition and exercise.

We used to laugh for 20 minutes out of every day. Now, it is estimated we only laugh for six minutes daily. We have become “terminally serious”.

The lifestyle that was supposed to happen (more leisure time, more money for less work) didn’t. Coping with a pandemic doesn’t help, and feeling as though you are trapped at home only adds to the seriousness of our lives. But we can choose to laugh. Look for and find some funny jokes, stories on the internet; read them out loud and laugh. Laughter does change your energy and you will feel better for it.

Look at your life and assess how much you laugh (or smile) each day.

Remember, if you’re happy – tell your face.

Carole Fawcett is a freelance writer.

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