April is National Humor Month. It was founded by humorist and author Larry Wilde, Director of the Carmel Institute of Humor. Its purpose is to promote the value of humor in improving health and enriching the quality of life.
I found my life calling in teaching individuals how to use humor as a coping mechanism to manage their stress. Laughing comes easy to me and for members of my family. I grew up in an Italian family where there was a great deal of drama sprinkled profusely with laughter. I was never chastised for laughing except in school where I was given the title of “class clown”.
When I first embarked on my career, there was very little research on how humor and laughter affected the body/mind. However, over the ensuing years, many articles, books and behavioral scientists have found incredible benefits to what most of us take for granted. Following are some of the ways laughter is utilized: * The body temperature rises, making you feel warmer. * The pulse and blood pressure drop. * Muscles contract, then relax as you laugh. * Breathing becomes deeper. * Serum oxygen levels are elevated, which benefits the cardiovascular system, heightens energy levels, and reduces tension.
Laughter also boosts your immune system. It activates T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, which help destroy invading microorganisms. In addition, laughter increases the production of immunity-boosting gamma interferon and speeds up the production of new immune cells. It also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can weaken the immune system. It appears when we laugh, we release endorphins, which are chemical cousins to the opiates heroin and morphine, natural painkillers. Laughing is considered aerobic. Norman Cousins, who is considered to be on of the pioneers in advocating for humor as a healing mechanism, coined the phrase, “inner jogging”. If you laugh for ten minutes straight, you may be able to burn 40 calories. Makes a good case for “laughing your butt off”.
What I find to be an unfortunate development in our culture is that I see fewer smiles and hear less laughter. Oh you can find a lot of excuses for why this is happening. But what’s the point? We can expend a lot of time delving into the reasons why certain things happen and often we come up empty-handed. Why not take the time and energy to bring more laughter, humor and joy into your life if you have found it taking a hiatus? It helps your brain to have a little vacation from your problems.
Figure out what makes you laugh and try to do it more often. Surround yourself with funny people if possible, or try to see the funny in them. Take an improv class or read a funny book. And be funny whenever you can—as long as you’re not hurting anyone’s feelings.