Think about what we think about.

If we watch people on TV commercials, we’re led to believe that we live in a society where people laugh all the time and everybody’s always having a great time. The truth is that most of us aren’t laughing all that much; in fact, Americans come in at number 11 in a survey of worldwide humor. But that should come as no surprise—after all, it’s pretty hard to crank out those guffaws when we’re constantly on the go and all we seem to care about  is accomplishing as much as possible in one day. Our “to do” list is endless. My question to all of you is do you also have a “Tadah” list? If we don’t sprinkle “Tadahs” throughout our lives our “to do” lists become daunting.

When our lives become so permeated with busyness it also becomes difficult to find humor and in particular to laugh at ourselves. Depression and anxiety is increasing due to our need to be busy all the time. It has created the lack of connection to friends and family which has made feelings of loneliness grow exponentially. Humor is not created in a vacuum—it needs people to spread it. Laughter is contagious; our moods affect those around us.

It is so important to not only have laughter in our personal relationships, but also in the work place. Many organizations have experienced less productivity and morale issues when negativity becomes pervasive.

Lack of humor and laughter also affects our health. It has always amazed me that physicians and other health professionals do not ask their patients if they’re laughing or having fun as part of their diagnostic process. There has been research that shows that laughter may actually lower blood pressure, help with lessening heart disease, and improve immune function.

I recently purchased a book written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, called,” The Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World”. They explore the nature of joy and its obstacles. Throughout the book, they include stories, wisdom, and science. I was very excited to see that one of their eight pillars of joy was Humor: Laughter, Joking is Much Better. The metaphor that struck me was as follows : “Humor, like humility, comes from the same root word for humanity: humus. The lowly and sustaining earth is the source for all three words. Is it any surprise that we have to have a sense of humility to be able to laugh at ourselves and that to laugh at ourselves reminds us of our shared humility?”

That explanation is so much a part of my teachings as a stress management educator.

I truly believe that if we could learn to “think about what we think about”, we may discover that a lot of our thoughts may have a degree of humor that we could use to distance ourselves from increasing our stress. Laughter can truly be the best medicine.

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