When my husband and have meals with our grandchildren, we often have a favorite game we play at the dinner table. We call it ‘the mad, sad, glad’ game. I highly recommend it.
The rules are quite simple. We begin by going around the table and each person has a chance to tell us about something that made them mad that day. When one person is talking, the others are just expected to listen and encourage one another.
Next, we each take a turn sharing about what made us sad that day, and then what made us glad.
I am always surprised to see how this simple game allows not only the children; but also, their moms and dads to have a chance to open up about something they wouldn’t normally talk about with the kids.
We recently added some more things to our game: “What did you learn today and what made you laugh today?”
I remember the first time we did the ‘laugh’ part. When it was my turn to share, I paused and asked, “Can it be something that made me smile today?”
“Nope,” my 6-year-old granddaughter quickly retorted, “It has to be something that made you laugh, Grandma!”
“Hmm…” I paused, “I can’t really think of anything that made me laugh today. Can I have more time to think about it?”
Our 10-year-old jumped to my rescue… “Here’s an idea, Grandma. You can say, ‘What made me sad today was when I couldn’t think of anything that made me laugh.’”
Pay Attention to Life
It seems my grandkids often remind me to pay more attention to my life; like the fact I wasn’t laughing as much these days.
Have you heard of statistics that say children laugh about 400 times a day and adults about 15 times a day? Have you ever wondered why that is?
At what point in our maturation period did we decide to drop the other 385 laughs? It must have been during puberty… or maybe for us women, it was at childbirth. (That’ll take the grin right off your face.)
Come to think of it; it must have been when all four of my kids turned into teenagers!
I guess when my doctor reported my bone scan showed I was losing bone mass, I should have asked him if that loss was also occurring in my funny bones?
I found myself pondering this question:
Is Laughter a Big Deal?
Since I am often in search of finding out about things that might make me happier, healthier, and more fulfilled, I decided this question would be a worthwhile research project.
Can laughter play a role in improving not only our attitudes, but also our health?
So, what do you think? Is getting your laughs in each day all that important?
Norman Cousins thought so. It was over 40 years when he called attention to his experience with laughter as a cure. Cousins famously chronicled the effects of his self-prescribed “laughing cure” in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.
Cousins, who suffered from inflammatory arthritis, claimed that just 10 minutes of hearty laughing while viewing Marx Brothers movies brought him two hours of pain-free sleep – and that both his inflammation and pain were significantly reduced. His laughter caused the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
What Does New Research Tell Us About Laughter?
Cousins was on to something! In the last seven years there has been many new scientific studies that support the benefits of laughter in our lives.
Laughter Benefits Our Physical Health!
Laughter Is Good for the Heart
A recent study of 20,934 individuals, aged 65 years or older, showed that laughter had a profound impact on their health and well-being. Persons who reported rarely or almost never laughing experienced a 21% higher prevalence of heart disease than those who reported laughing every day.
The same startling result was true for the prevalence of stroke: 60% higher among the non-laughers than among those who reported a daily dose of laughter.
Are you serious?? I need to watch more Johnny Carson reruns!
So when we read in proverbs that laughter ‘maketh our heart merry’ it is not only a nice adage but also a scientific fact! Laughter, I learned, improves our blood pressure. It enhances our intake of oxygen-rich air, which not only stimulates our heart, but also our lungs and muscles.
Laughter Leads to Greater Resistance to Disease
When negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions, they can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive and humorous thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
Laughter Helps with Insomnia
One more reason not to go to sleep watching the evening news.
Laughter Helps with Pain
Laughter alleviates pain which supports Norman Cousins earlier claims.
Laughter Benefits Our Mental Health:
Laughter increases health-enhancing hormones (such as endorphins), neurotransmitters, and infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter reduces levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine; Currently, research is indicating that the physical act of laughing, even without humor, is linked to chemical changes in the body that potentially reduce stress and increase pain tolerance.
Laughter Helps with Depression and Anxiety
Laughter improves our mood. It gives us a more positive mindset and overall outlook on life.
Laughter Even Sharpens Your Mind!
Although you may not think of the funny pages as intellectually stimulating, laughter sharpens your mind. So, put more humorous books on your list of fun activities. Erma Bombeck is one of my favorite authors for finding humor in everyday life.
Laughter Benefits Our Social Life
Laughter Helps Us Connect with Other People
Laughter improves communication. Communication can sometimes be awkward . Even for those of us who share the same language. But laughter can transcend language and strengthen playful communication.
Sets the Mood for Romance
Although most of us focus on being physically attractive to find that man, but laughter can be a real turn on. Unless of course your laugh sounds like Lily Tomlin’s snort.
Laughter is great at fostering emotional connection. And it gets to the core of deeply felt emotions too.
Laughter makes you more approachable. Who doesn’t like to be around someone with a good sense of humor?
Laughter Is the Best Medicine
It appears that laughter really is the best medicine. It can improve our mental health, our physical health and our social lives.
And finally; laughter makes you feel younger; in fact, it’s been revealed that humor can actually be the key to living longer.
And this powerful tool in our toolbox for healthier living is also fun and free! Plus, you can get it without a prescription, and no negative side effects.
Knowing all this, why in the world wouldn’t I do more to seek out this medicine to improve my health, and my happiness? And why wouldn’t you?
‘More Laughter in My Life’ Challenge
Here’s my 5-step plan:
I found this quote and I am going to post it on my refrigerator.
“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”—Nicholas Chamfort
I will do a laughter assessment and ask myself at the end of each day: What made me laugh today?
Write down my responses and take notice of how much better I felt after a good laugh.
Be open for more opportunities to find something to laugh about. Take laughter yoga, for example. (Yes, this is actually a thing.) Not only do you get to practice your laughter… you get to do it with friends.
At the end of the month look for commonalities, aha-s and new ideas for bringing more laughter in my life.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
So, what made you laugh today? What gives you the giggles, or better yet, what causes you to bust out into a good old belly laugh? Have you had ‘laughter-healing experiences’ in your life?