A few days ago, I wrote about one area of particular focus for me in 2019, which was friendship. You can read those thoughts and that post here. I mentioned I would write about another theme for 2019; hence this is part two of that. The other area of focus that I think needs to occur is this: laughter.
I need to laugh. I actually love to laugh; don’t you? Who doesn’t like to laugh, I wonder. Maybe you know a Scrooge who falls in that category. Thankfully, I think they are few and far between. Most of us do enjoy a good, hearty laugh.
I’m thinking of how to make this more intentional. I don’t think it is realistic to assume a side-splitting laugh is possible every single day. I think it is partly a mindset and an intentional practice.
I am reminded of a book I read many years ago titled Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins. The book was published in 1979; I think I read it some years later during college. Cousins was diagnosed with a condition called “ankylosing spondylitis” with a pessimistic prognosis. He decided (with the approval and oversight of his doctor) to treat his disease differently than the usual methods. He found that the usual treatment and depressing hospital life made him worse and caused side effects.
His new treatment plan consisted only of 2 medications. The first part of this plan included taking mega doses of Vitamin C. The second medication? Laughter. Lots and lots of it. He essentially prescribed himself laughter. He watched funny shows, such as countless episodes of Candid Camera. He made himself laugh. Did you know that a hearty belly laugh can induce the same amount of exercise as rowing? (That is a little snippet I remember from the book.) Cousins eventually improved dramatically.
Of course, it is simplistic to presume that laughter itself is enough; Cousins researched his condition and learned what might work for him. In many cases, modern medicine is a necessity and laughter is not enough. But I do think he knew something many of us need to be reminded about: the healing potential of laughter.
Scientists have studied the physiological benefits of laughter (which can easily be found through a simple google search). Here are a few:
- Laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels, which can lower the risk of heart attack (https://www.sciencealert.com/watch-here-s-what-happens-to-you-brain-when-you-laugh)
- Laughter boosts production of antibodies, which strengthens the immune system (https://www.sciencealert.com/watch-here-s-what-happens-to-you-brain-when-you-laugh)
- Ten minutes on a rowing machine is equivalent to one minute of hearty laughter (https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#1)
- Laughter burns calories (https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/give-your-body-boost-with-laughter#1)
Research is not complete (will it ever be?) but some benefits are known. Of course, this does not replace any advice given by a physician.
But laughter surely won’t hurt. Laughter becomes necessary, a breath of life. Laughter is a pill that is easy to swallow. Laughter is indeed a medicine, one that is free and available to us all.
I wish to be more cognizant of humor, laughter, and seeking these intentionally. As far as the exact HOW of this, I do know that one factor will involve reading a few humorous books, books that are the laugh-out-loud sort of funny.
And it may involve watching a few funny movies.
Now don’t those sound fun? If all resolutions involved fun like this (I’m not calling it a resolution, but if it WERE…) I wonder how EASY it would be for people to stick with their resolutions? Reading some funny books and watching a few funny movies is hardly a punishment or mundane task or painful in any way. Like a diet, for example, which involves giving up all sorts of things…:-D
Or, a painful exercise regimen which lasts only a week…:-D
Do you pick a “word” for your year (or a theme of sorts)? I’d love to hear.