By Mike Slagle, Editor, LifeStream™
“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”~ G.K. Chesterton
It’s a crazy world out there and, let’s face it, sometimes just coping with the problems of the world (and in our own lives) can sap our energy and leave us feeling emotionally drained at the end of the day. Fortunately, to deal with the stress of our day-to-day existence, Nature has provided us with a “sixth sense” — our sense of humor. The problem is, as we grow older we develop an unhealthy tendency to take ourselves too seriously.
We fool ourselves into thinking that proficiency at what we do in life must necessarily involve an appearance of sober attention to our commitments. To be perceived as taking our responsibilities too lightly sends, we fear, a message that we’re somehow less skillful, less efficient, or less dedicated to what we’re doing. As a result, we too often pay for our seriousness with stress, burnout, and a feeling that we’re getting no joy out of our work.
We fail to understand that it’s quite possible to be sincere about our work… and our life… without taking it all so seriously. In fact, learning to take ourselves more lightly is without a doubt better for our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
Think of it this way: Nature gave us our sense of humor because we require it to stay healthy. Though medical science stops short of claiming that humor and laughter are capable of reversing any disease, an active sense of humor undisputedly makes sure that our body’s natural health and healing systems are fully engaged in defending against disease.
Most notably, laughter has been shown to lower the level of the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol in the blood. And, since stress has been linked to the six leading causes of death in the U.S., a good laugh a few times a day may be the easiest – and most affordable – prescription for our wellness.
When we take ourselves more lightly and allow our sense of humor to influence how we view the world, we nurture a more positive, optimistic perspective of things. Our attitude about our job and our life almost immediately improves. Obstacles seem less formidable. Troubled relationships appear less difficult to mend. And, as we replace high-stress emotions like anger, anxiety, and fear with compassion and a positive attitude, we are able to respond to adversity and challenges with a calmer, clearer perspective. We enjoy life more.
At the same time, we are playing an active role in triggering our body’s own health and healing resources, so directly connected are our emotions to our overall wellness.
It’s ironic, I suppose, that as we grow older, take on responsibility and the need to deal with the obligations and tragedies of our lives, we tend to ignore our most powerful resource for maintaining our emotional and physical health – Laughter. According to William Fry, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School and an expert on health and laughter, the average kindergarten student laughs 300 times a day. Adults, on the other hand, average just 17 laughs a day.
Perhaps it’s time that we recapture a bit of that lightness we knew as children, a time when each day promised opportunities. When we took ourselves lightly and understood the pure, cleansing delight of a good laugh.
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Nearly 100 years ago, renowned Harvard psychologist Henry James said “We don’t laugh because we are happy; we’re happy because we laugh.” Laughter, it turns out, goes a lot further than simply making us feel good. Medical research now attributes many other health benefits to laughter, as well, including lower blood pressure, improved brain function, stress relief, increased immune system efficiency, and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Laughter may, indeed, be the best medicine. Plus, it’s readily available, has no negative side effects… and it’s free!
Here are a few simple things you can do to make laughter a regular part of your healthy lifestyle:
- Smile or laugh at least 5 minutes each day.
- Learn to laugh at yourself and your life situation more often.
- Let go of being an adult all of the time and give yourself permission to play more often.
- Practice telling more jokes and funny stories.
- Bring laughter into your intimate relationship.
- Laugh out loud for no reason at all (Yes… it really works!).
(Some of the above information was taken from Wellness Wednesdays™ — our weekly email-coaching program that delivers to your inbox weekly tips on how you can successfully reduce the stress in your life. To learn more about Wellness Wednesdays™, visit our Wellness Wednesdays page.)
In the Know…
Ever wonder why you can’t tickle yourself? If, as some scientists believe, laughing caused by tickling is a built-in instinct, then theoretically you ought to be able to tickle yourself. But you can’t – not even in the same area and using the same way someone else tickles you.??Seems that when you try to tickle yourself there are two critical conditions missing. No one knows for sure why, but the brain requires tension and surprise before it sends the message to your spinal cord that you’re being tickled. (Source: How Stuff Works)
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