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Belly Laughs Beat the Blues–and More!

by Marye Audet

“Laughter is the best medicine:” It’s an old adage that has been floating around for decades, but have you ever wondered if getting more laughter in your life could make a difference in your mental, emotional, and physical health?

It’s interesting to note that children laugh an average of 500 times a day while adults are lucky if they manage five good guffaws. Traffic jams, tight budgets, and work deadlines are only a few of the evils of modern society that will suck the giggle right out of you. The problem is that not only does all that stress weaken your sense of humor, it also weakens your immune system, makes you more prone to depression, and increases your grumpiness.

What if adding a little laughter to your life could conquer all of that?

Is Laughter Really So Good for You?

We talked to Frank Chindamo of LaughMD, a company that installs channels that run funny videos on hospital television channels (for more information check laughmdcom). Chindamo an adjunct professor at four colleges, and one of the advisors for LaughMD is none other than Patch Adams, the real man that inspired the “Patch Adams” movie. When asked what the benefits of laughter were he replied that in light of the fact that he had taught about comedy, as well as making hundreds of comedy videos, he knew “a thing or two” about laughter.

  1. Laughing has been voted the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
  2. It has no carbs.
  3. It’s good for your heart.
  4. It’s good for your lungs.
  5. It’s good for your partner.
  6. Laughter is good for your brain.
  7. When you’re laughing, at least you’re not crying.
  8. Laughter can literally get you high.
  9. And finally, Holy crickets, I almost forgot this one: it’s fun!

Making hospital patients laugh reaps benefits for both the patient and the staff. It has been found to reduce pain, strengthen the immune system and improve respiration. That, in turn, benefits the staff since the patient is less anxious, more compliant, and often is able to be released earlier.

Laughing lowers your risk for heart attack, increases circulation, helps you fight infection, increases energy, and helps manage both pain and stress. It burns calories, boosts confidence, and best of all, the pharmaceutical companies haven’t found a way to make it into a pill–it’s a remedy that is available to anyone!

Getting More Laughter into Your Life

It’s great that laughter is so good for you, but on those days when the toilet overflows, the baby is teething, and the boss wants you to stay late at the office? Well, laughter can seem downright impossible. A smile might even be a stretch – so how do you wrestle even one belly laugh from deep inside?

One possibility is Laughter Yoga. Introduced to Houston in 2011 by Lainie Diamond, laughter yoga won’t ask you to twist your limbs into a pretzel shape or balance in an impossible pose. In fact, there are no poses and no floor exercises at all. Ms. Diamond says, “We’re in a group and we move and laugh. We self hug, we wiggle like we have ants in our pants, we affirm our bodies aloud. It releases anxieties and lets out feelings. I like to call it Expressive Breathing Movement Exercises.

Wiggling in a group of people and laughing is an intimidating idea to most folks but Diamond laughs, “I like to say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. You need to fake it until you make it! The motion will create the emotion, and you’ll feel so much better afterwards!”

Kids are welcome to attend classes with a parent or guardian. Get the whole family involved. You can find more information on the website, www.houstonlaughteryoga.com.

There are plenty of other ways to get more laughter in your life if laughter yoga isn’t your cup of tea.

  • Watch funny movies! There are plenty of them available on Netflix, you’ll just need to figure out what type of comedy makes you laugh.
  • Take a laugh break with a quick, funny video on YouTube or one of the funny video sites. A Google search for funny videos, funny cats, or whatever will turn up a plethora of possibilities.
  • Ask your friends or spouse to tell you a joke. Better yet, ask your kids to tell you a joke.
  • Television Sitcoms are always available with cable television!
  • Utilize Pinterest! Start a board with all of the quotes, memes, and pictures that make you laugh as you are surfing the Internet.
  • Call or message an old friend and talk about all of the crazy stuff that you did way back when.
  • Head for an amusement park with a friend.

There are hundreds of ways to encourage laughter in your life, but one of the biggest is simply not taking yourself so seriously!

Encouraging Laughter in Your Family

Laughter builds camaraderie, teamwork, and a feeling of belonging. Those are the foundations of a strong family life, so it stands to reason that it’s a good idea to get your whole family laughing right along with you. Building a sense of humor in your child will help him handle stress better now and in the future.

  • Family game nights can be a great way to bond and laugh.
  • Get your child a joke book. Most kids love these things right around the age of eight and will read them voraciously and then follow you around trying out jokes on you. Let yourself really focus on your child and laugh at their jokes.
  • Gentle wrestling, a pillow fight, or some other non-violent activity can be lots of fun. Just stay away from tickling – it takes away your child’s control over the situation and is almost abusive for some children. Know your child and what is OK with them.
  • Watch a funny family movie.

Don’t Stifle Laughter in Your Family

It’s a lot easier to allow laughter to be stifled than you might think. Every day people are exposed to infinite amounts of violence, anger, and ugliness. It comes through the news, through social media, and through daily interactions with others.

Watch less commercial television, and especially the news. It causes stress that you probably don’t need to deal with. There is so much violence that society doesn’t even recognize it as violence anymore. Watching someone get murdered on a television show creates stress in your body just like watching someone get murdered on the street would. You may think you are immune to it because it’s just pretend but your body tells a different story.

Frank Chindamo suggests National Public Radio as a way to find out what is happening in the world. It is world news and tends to be less jaded than conventional news stations, he says.

So, grab a funny movie, make some popcorn, and gather the family for an evening of laughter. It’s good for what ails you.

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