Allow myself to introduce…..myself. I am silly and back in the day i was obsessed with Austin Powers. Until this day all I have to do is see Michael Myers in that character (or any character for that matter) I erupt into shits and giggles so to speak. My roommates at the time of my graduation from graduate school gave me a life size Austin as a gift. He shared space wirh me in my bedroom until his dust made me sneeze too much! Laughter has generally come easy for me. It has been an incredible healer over the years. My humor has never failed to get me through life’s various struggles and challenges. It is something I inherited actually from my Dad who is truly the goofiest funny person I know. My natural inclination to see the funny side of most things, including myself, has gotten me through a whole lot over the years. It is something I love about myself. But is it possible for laughing to actually be medicine?
There has been research done on the biochemical healing qualities of laughter. Laughing activates the immune system through moving the lymph tissue> These tissues help cleanse and oxygenate your blood. It is moved during the convulsions produced by a really good belly laugh. This means you ACTUALLY need to laugh in order for this to happen. None of those fake chuckles or smiles. The T cells, the infection fighting cells are enhanced during laughter which also boosts immunity. A full belly laugh also exercises the muscles in the gut. Ever laugh so hard it hurts? Yup that’s your abs and diaphragm getting a good workout! Laughing increases oxygen levels in the cells and organs. Parasites and bacteria do not live well in the presence of oxygen therefore laughing keeps you healthier. During a time of great laughter you probably have felt the natural high from increased levels of oxygen to your brain, right? How cool does that feel? Groovey baby! Serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter in the brain, is also released during laughter. Depression is caused by low levels of serotonin so guess what that means???? That frown can turn upside down with some honest to goodness giggles! Laughter decreases cortisol and adrenaline which are stress hormones released when stress response (fight/flight) response is activated. This means that on a biochemical level you become less stressed when laughing.
But what if you don’t feel like laughing? Well to be completely honest this post is ironic. Here on the East Coast we have been sitting on the sun for 7 days. A heat wave has hit us with temps soaring as high as 100 for the past week. I am anything but cheerful at this point. So when thinking about how to share my tea with you all I thought man do I really need to laugh! Rubin writes in “The Happiness Project” about how acting how you would like to feel actually brings upon feelings of happiness. Ahhh the old “fake it until you make it.” So here I am out at a lively coffee shop having tea with you all. I have to say writing this post and watching Austin has helped! I am sure my willingness to cheer up played a part Laughing offers a distraction from the things that are outside of our control. You may not be able to control the weather, your coworkers, your boss, your partner, etc. but you CAN control who you react to these people or events. Our behavior is often the only thing we can control. Isn’t it much more fun to laugh at the ridiculousness of life than to pull your hair out? I have long hair that has taken me a very long time to grow. I’m not the least bit interested in losing any over something that will pass. When I can, I generally opt for laughter instead. I say “when I am capable” because I am not always easily able to activate the giggle response. But when I do, I find whatever drove me nuts has deflated like the air in tires.
What works for you? Find it, embrace it, use it abundantly. Austin, Steve Martin, Glee or Alley McBeal may not work for you or maybe your like me and they do. Who knows? I am sure there are plenty of wacky people like me out there. Enjoy life because it is fleeting. Just like they say about New England weather, if you don’t like it wait a minute it will change. Life is impermanent. Things are always ever flowing. We can’t get attached to the good feelings or the not so good feelings because they all pass. The key is to enjoy the ride. I intend on doing just that! Thanks for the chat it really helped!