If “laughter is the best medicine,” why do so few take a daily dose?
Learning from the Children
Watch a child at play. What do you see? More importantly — what do you not see?
You won’t see stress lines between his brows. There is an absence of anxiety. Rather, a child’s face tells the story: it’s all about having fun!
A child at play is an example of emotional freedom — something that is crucial to the well-being of every human on planet earth.
As we age, we take on responsibilities and obligations that somehow replace the freedom of childhood. But, it doesn’t need to. You, too, can learn to get back in touch with your playful side. All it takes is a little courage and a dose of knowledge as to its importance.
An Easy Exercise
Watch the old Robin Williams’ movie, Hook. In it, Peter Pan — all grown up — learns to reconnect with his playful side.
If this movie doesn’t teach you the importance of play … well, you probably need to send me an email and set up a private coaching appointment!
There is an actual science to laughter. Understanding why and how we laugh is a first step toward understanding its importance.
A recent study — as published by Psychology Today — discusses the issue:
However happy we may feel, laughter is a signal we send to others and it virtually disappears when we lack an audience.
Most of us don’t laugh out loud when we are alone. When we are alone, who is there to “signal” with our laughter? The social connection is important, then, in understanding the importance of laughter.
As humans, we are social beings. If your life lacks enough laughter, you might fall into one of the following categorical traps:
- social isolation
- emotional isolation
- lack of stress mastery
Social isolation: If you spend too much time by yourself, your opportunities for laughter are likely limited to television shows, books, and memories. And even in those “funny” situations which might otherwise garner a boisterous laugh, doing so while alone is not often practiced. Why? Because we lack an audience! If this sounds like you, it’s time to get out of the house and play!
Emotional isolation: Even those people who are frequently in the company of others may too seldom laugh and play because their mind is isolated. They are engaged in thoughts unrelated to the environment and/or immediate situation. These people fail to “stop and smell the roses” when walking through a garden. If this sounds like you, it’s time to allocate some of those brain cells to the “here and now.”
Lack of Stress Mastery: This category includes folks with the inability to “let go” long enough to laugh! It’s closely related to — and often corresponds with — emotional isolation. A person who is just too wound up finds it difficult to let down his guard enough to laugh out loud or to play. Playing and laughing require a certain amount of vulnerability, the ability to “look or sound silly” and not care. Someone who is on stress-over-drive, who doesn’t know how to deal with that stress, frequently fails to laugh. It’s a Catch-22 in that laughter helps to reduce stress, yet too much stress inhibits laughter. If you fall into this category, it’s time to learn how to manage that stress!
Laughter as medicine is a long-held understanding, but has it been proven? Is there an actual medicinal benefit to laughter? Apparently, yes.
According to Northwestern University professor Jeffrey Burgdorf, it has been shown (in rats) that laughter changes the chemical make-up of the brain, acting to reduce depression and anxiety. He suspects that the same thing occurs in humans, and gives researchers a new area of the brain to consider in their attempts at curing depression and anxiety disorders.