We recently celebrated Independence Day, and honored and celebrated a young local resident, who was taken from us in a tragic manner. We all experience stress, sadness and grief in our own way … a part of life. A part of my work as a health coach is hearing about the parts of life that add stress to peoples lives. It may be work stress, family stress, health challenges, or just our day-to-day multitasking life.
Many people are seeking that ”magic” pill that will make them happier, less impacted by stress. While there are foods and dietary supplements that support our body so that we are less affected by stress, we all need to look at other aspects of our daily lives. Are we exercising regularly? Do we have a regular yoga or meditation practice? How many hours of restful sleep do we get on a regular basis? What do we do unconsciously that contributes to our stress level? In my case, in full disclosure, while I don’t watch TV, I spend too much time with my handheld devices and need a media break once in a while.
Turn on the radio, TV or look at any news media, and what we usually see and hear is grim. A cliche about the media often heard is ”If it bleeds, it leads,” which determines what is on the first page of the paper, or the first segment on the evening news, or the first item to pop up in the Twitter feed.
Lately, I have returned to my practice of reading the comics first when I peruse the daily newspaper in the morning. The chuckles I get from many of the comic strips make me laugh and set the tone for my day.
”I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off,” says Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. ”They might be healthier too.”
There are many ways we can benefit from a daily dose of laughter. Laughter can lower your blood pressure. People who laugh regularly have a lower standing blood pressure. When you laugh, your blood pressure goes up initially, then goes down. Your breathing becomes deeper as a result, and you will send (much-needed) oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.
A good laugh decreases stress hormones and increases your ability to produce infection-fighting antibodies. Your pulse will quicken, your attention span will improve. With the reduction of stress your digestion may vastly improve. You will be in a parasympathetic state where digestion works, as opposed to a sympathetic state where you will be ready to fight off the bear and your digestion switch is dialed down.
Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may also help protect you against a heart attack, according to a study at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The study, which is the first to indicate that laughter may help prevent heart disease, found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease.
Laughter can be a great workout for your body. You will be exercising your diaphragm, abdominal, facial, leg and back muscles. As you laugh, you will be toning your midsection, strengthening the tissue that holds your abdominal organs in place, and you will burn calories. Laughter can also stimulate brain function and improve your memory.
We need laughter in our work, family and marriages as much as we need our problem-solving and record-keeping. Humor is a great way to connect with your family and coworkers. At my workplace we often share a funny cartoon or video, which enhances our individual lives and is a great team-building tool. Even when life is not perfect in our family life, if we can laugh together we will get closer and have a better chance to solve problems together. I attempt (often successfully) to interject humor into my classes and coaching sessions, which makes learning about the varied health topics more enjoyable.
One of the people who made me laugh for many years was Robin Williams. Like many, I am saddened by losing him as a source of entertainment, and imagine that he had his own challenges and demons in his life. One of my favorite films that starred Robin Williams was his portrayal of Patch Adams. The film tells the story of Patch Adams, who is a physician and is well-known for promoting laughter and its health benefits.
One of my favorite rituals growing up was enjoying each month’s ”Laughter is the Best Medicine,” the first part of the monthly Readers Digest. So, try starting your day with some humor, turn the news and Twitter off and read the comics.
What are some of your favorite ways to laugh and put a smile on your face? Let us know. Salud!
Did you hear the one about…..?