By Judy Laufer
It seems that laughing can be contagious. Have you ever found yourself laughing after you see someone else laughing? You don't know why you are laughing but just seeing someone laugh can cause you to do the same. Wouldn't you rather catch a laugh than a cold or the flu?
Our children certainly know how to laugh. We can learn much from them. They seem to spend a lot more time laughing than we adults do! Babies smile naturally, too. Remember your baby's first smile?
We have all heard the age old saying "laughter is the best medicine." Have we experienced this ourselves?
Laughing results in the exercise of your diaphragm and the movement of your facial muscles. Have you ever laughed so hard that your side hurts?
There is a lot of research into the physical benefits of laughter. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air; stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles; and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter activates and relieves your stress response by lowering your adrenaline level, resulting in a good, relaxed feeling. Laughter can also soothe tension by stimulating circulation and aids in muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter has some positive long-term effects, too. It improves your immune system. Negative thoughts result in chemical reactions that can impact your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses. Laughter may also ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers, such as endorphins. Laughter can also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders such as fibromyalgia.
Finally, laughter increases personal satisfaction by making it easier to cope with difficult situations and in helping you connect with other people.
So, yes it's true! Laughing is really healthy because it promotes good physical health and mental well-being. It's good for our hearts and our heads. This is wonderful news for us all. We are not wasting time laughing; we are exercising our bodies and elevating our moods. No drugs needed.
Happy people seem to make others happier, too. Most of us would rather talk with a happy person than with a grumpy one, right?
So, if laughing is good for us, why aren't we doing more of it? In today's post 9/11 world we are much more stressed and on guard than ever before. Tragedy seems to be everywhere, and with instant media, you can follow it for days, if not weeks. I am not suggesting that we not empathize or be engaged with happenings in the world, but we should keep it all in perspective and not let current events put us in a state of constant depression and immobilization.
Wouldn't we be more able—mentally and physically—to respond to a crisis if we were in good health? If your doctor prescribed laughter in a pill form, would you take it?
What about our children? Do they feel this angst? Do they feel more stressed today than we did growing up? What would your guess be? The answer is obvious. They feel your mood.
To summarize, there is now clear evidence that laughter is good for mental as well as physical health. If you are healthier, you are more likely to be patient and energetic. Wouldn't that be good for your family and children? Again, an obvious "yes."
Here are some of my favorite tips to make you and your family healthier and happier:
- Go to a funny movie together.
- Find jokes to share with your kids.
- Tickle your kids and let them tickle you.
- Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
- Have a backwards day at your house where you have dinner in the morning and breakfast at night.
- Have your family make funny faces and take photos.
- Read a funny story with your kids. My Last Night I Had a Laughmare book was created for exactly this purpose.
Wouldn't our lives be so much better with a little more laughter in the world? You can be the change that your family and your community needs.
Judy Egett Laufer, author of the new release, Last Night I Had a Laughmare: Bedtime Adventures in Gigglyville (www.littleeggpublishing.com), is a certified early childhood educator/consultant and has taught kindergarten for over a decade. She wrote this to help families bring laughter and joy to their children's bedtime routine. Laufer attended Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She is married and lives with her husband and son in the Southwest.