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How to Laugh More

by Mary Beth Janssen

Laughter is the best medicine!

Laughter therapy has now become a mainstay in integrative medicine programs, as research shows that laughter reduces stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins into the bloodstream, improving mood and reducing pain. It also elevates brain awareness and fends off disease by activating immunological cells. It can lower blood pressure and enhance cardiovascular and respiratory functions.

Dynamic laughter (the big belly laughs) will give your diaphragm and abdominals quite an aerobic workout. And, something most of us probably suspected—that being in a humorous way can release negative emotions, inspire creativity and enhance communication skills.

To bring more laughter into your life:

Share the humor. When you hear or read something that tickles your funny bone, pass it on and laugh all over again.

Put that favorite cartoon on the refrigerator door. Place a smiley face on your car dashboard, bathroom mirror or workstation as a reminder to lighten up.

Enjoy a lively dose of laughter. Start the day with cartoons instead of talk shows, swap the news for the Simpsons, go straight to the funnies in the Sunday newspaper (as my husband does!). All this looniness can make for a silly mood that can grow on you.

Choose your friends carefully. Those who make you laugh are a treasure. Distance yourself from those who are whiners or perpetually put out a doom-and-gloom vibe.

Take up a new interest, preferably with someone you like. Rudimentary attempts at anything new can bring on full-out hysterics, if you let them. Just remember, don't take yourself too seriously.

Poke fun at yourself—or anything for that matter. Comic complaining is a favorite tool of the trade for stand up comedians. Look for life's many absurdities. If you're not naturally funny, just concentrate on having fun! The laughs will come.

Watch some of the oldies but goodies...Seinfeld, Golden Girls, etc. Keep funny movies on hand or rent them, and visit the library or some of the hilarious websites devoted to all things humorous. Read funny articles and jokes, and seek out humorous CDs or books.

Look into joining or starting a local Laughter Club. Members engage in laughing exercises that flow into spontaneous laughter. I not only belong to one but am also called upon to teach laughter yoga sessions and can vouch for the incredible feeling of well-being, camaraderie and fun they conjure! Check out worldlaughtertour.com or laughteryoga.org.

The Benefits of Laughter:

• Increases antibodies in saliva that combat upper respiratory infections.

• Decreases serum cortisol, thus providing an antidote for harmful effects of stress.

• Secretes an enzyme that protects the stomach from forming ulcers.

• Conditions the abdominal muscles, thus strengthens your core.

• Relaxes muscles throughout the body.

• Aids in reducing symptoms of neuralgia and rheumatism.

• Has a positive impact on mental functions.

• Improves ventilation in and out of the lungs, thus helping reduce chronic
    respiratory conditions.

• Reduces blood pressure and heart rate.

• Liberates interleukin-2 and other immune system boosters.

• Helps the body fight infection

• Releases endorphins, which provide natural pain relief.

• Helps move nutrients and oxygen to body tissues.

• Helps change your perspective.

• Makes you feel good!

From World Laughter Tour (worldlaughtertour.com)

Remember that regular laughter is a required practice for optimal mind-body health, but also for edging closer to true enlightenment. You want to lighten up? Get your laughter on!

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