The other night I came home from work, curled up in bed with my laptop computer and watched brief comedy episodes for over an hour. It had been a long day at work, and I was dog tired.
I thought briefly of the productive things I should have tackled that evening. But in my haze of passivity, all I really wanted to do was laugh and enjoy mindless entertainment. That's what happened. I smiled, I giggled. I threw my head back at ironic moments, guffawed at silly stories, and for one brief moment, screamed out my mirthful surprise.
By the end of the evening, I felt more energetic, less stressed and actually happier than at its beginning. I marveled again at the effect that smiling, laughing and relaxing has on us humans.
One of my favorite memories of childhood is my mom sitting in front of the television and laughing non-stop for 30 minutes as she watched episodes of "America's Funniest Home Videos." It put the whole family in a good mood. We'd come and sit with her from time to time just to watch her laugh and to join in at especially good moments.
We've all heard that laughter is the best medicine. The effects of laughter on our bodies are immense. Laughing boosts our immune system, relieves pain, relaxes muscles, strengthens the heart, helps us refresh ourselves and releases toxins. It increases our oxygen levels and thereby helps with blood circulation. It helps us bond with others, brings balance to our daily lives by allowing us to be in the moment, decreases depression and anxiety, attracts others to us, and can dramatically alter our perspective on life in a matter of minutes.
Today, people hold seminars in which you learn to laugh. There is even laughter yoga. Its benefits are used to help the elderly cope, heal cancer patients and even offset pain after surgery.
We are all born with great senses of humor, but some of us seem to lose it along the way. The pressures of life can steer us toward a mentality of heaviness or disappointment. The art of laughing is needed more than ever in times of sadness, high anxiety and fear.
We literally must choose laughter at times, as I did the other night when I should have been doing more serious things. It turned out that those things still needed to get done, but tackling them later became easier once I'd blown off a little steam in the laughing room of life.
Want to bring more laughter into your life? Try these techniques:
• Hang out with children. They generally live to laugh and play and will look for humor in everyday situations.
• One writer suggests moving toward laughter when you hear it nearby and asking, "What's funny?" Most people enjoy sharing humor with others.
• Learn to tell jokes and enjoy a good ribbing now and then. As a child, I was amazed that my father could get total strangers to warm up to him by just telling them funny stories and boldly teasing them.
• Watch comedy, read comedy, listen to comedy.
• Of course, remember to laugh at yourself more than at other people.
Now, let me tell you a funny story...
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a local therapist and freelance writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.