There’s a story about an eight-year-old boy who brought home a report card filled with poor grades. His mother asked, “What have you to say about this?” The boy replied, “One thing is for sure, you know I ain’t cheating!” This little boy found a way to share a light side to his failure.
There will be countless opportunities to be serious—a business deal falls through, you didn’t get the promotion, divorce papers have been served or your weight is a constant source of struggle. In spite of our failures or disappointments, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become weighed down with the cares of daily living. Our lives should be balanced with fun and laughter—natural stress relievers.
We’ve heard it said that laughter is medicine for the soul. There is strong evidence that laughter can actually improve health and help fight diseases. Laughter is the physiological response to humor. Laughter consists of two parts -- a set of gestures and the production of a sound. When we laugh, the brain pressures us to conduct both those activities simultaneously. When we laugh heartily, changes occur in muscles in many parts of the body. Research suggests that humans have a "detector" that responds to laughter by triggering other neural circuits in the brain, which, in turn, generates more laughter. This explains why laughter is contagious.
Researchers have also concluded that laughter can bring balance to all the components of the immune system, which helps us fight off diseases. Laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones. These stress hormones suppress the immune system, increase the number of blood platelets, which can cause obstructions in arteries and raise blood pressure. When we are laughing, natural killer cells that destroy tumors and viruses increase, as do disease-fighting proteins and T-cells, which are a major part of the immune response, and B-cells, which make disease-destroying antibodies.
The psychological benefits of humor are quite amazing, according to doctors and nurses who are members of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor. People often store negative emotions, such as anger, sadness and fear, rather than expressing them. Laughter provides a way for these emotions to be harmlessly released. Laughter is cathartic. That's why some people who are upset or stressed out go to a funny movie or a comedy club, so they can laugh the negative emotions away. These negative emotions, when held inside, can cause biochemical changes that can affect our bodies.
Occasionally, when my family gathers, my sister Betty will bring up the “remember when” subject. She gets a real belly laugh from sharing her recollection of an incident that occurred when I was about six years old (she’s two years older than I). She recounts an incident where we were in a grocery store and I insisted that my mother allow me to carry the eggs to the car. My mother hesitantly agreed and explicitly instructed me to not drop the eggs. Well, you guessed it—I dropped the eggs! In my exuberance, I ran out of the store, stumbled and broke the eggs. Betty’s hysteria can hardly be contained as she relives this moment in time. Quite frankly, I have absolutely no recollection of this incident and, to this day, I’m not thoroughly convinced that she didn’t fabricate the entire story to instigate some amusement at my expense. My mother never verified her story!
The point is, we shouldn’t take life so seriously. Not only should we laugh often, but we should also laugh heartily. Laugh at yourself. Life should be enjoyed rather than endured.
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