The Shortest Distance Between Two People

posted in: Community, Mindfulness | 0

My husband and I laugh a lot, often over the most mundane things. This morning it was over the way he was folding his napkin. Go figure.

Laughter, it turns out, is a great form of stress relief. So to round out Stress Awareness Month (April), I decided it was only appropriate that laughter is the focus.

Everyone knows that it’s fun to share laughter with friends. Did you also know that laughter creates neurological and physiological changes in your body and mind that lead to improved health? There’s a reason that laughter is referred to as “the best medicine!”

When you laugh, your body releases endorphins into the blood system. Endorphins act like natural pain killers and are also responsible for making you feel happy. The best part is endorphins are completely free of any side effects – it’s all natural! That’s why you feel a “natural high” after the right dose of laughter.

Laughing not only leads to reduced stress, but it can also do the following:

  • Lower blood pressure. This cycle starts with the blood pressure rising when you start to laugh but then it decreases to levels below normal. When you take deep breaths while laughing, more oxygen-rich blood is transported quickly throughout your body.
  • Increase your attentiveness, heart rate and pulse. When your heart rate and pulse is elevated, you’ll feel more energized. Of course, being more attentive can lead to better learning and growth.
  • Make your heart grow stronger. For a long time now, heart specialists have established that mental stress is particularly harmful to the heart and is one of the leading causes behind the build up of fat and cholesterol in the coronary arteries. By laughing and reducing that stress on a regular basis, you’re helping your body reduce that fat buildup while reducing your risk of a heart attack.
  • Lower blood sugar. Laughter helps with reducing stress and stress often leads to an increase in blood sugar levels.
  • Provide a form of exercise. When you throw back your head and laugh, you’re actually working your muscles from the hips to the shoulders. Since laughing involves taking in and releasing of air, the expelling of carbon dioxide and the intake of oxygen, your internal organs and core muscles get a good workout every time you laugh heartily. That explains why you “laugh until your stomach hurts!”
  • Boost your popularity. A quick look at dating profiles will prove that a sense of humor is a very attractive quality. A lighthearted approach may also be useful for resolving conflicts and delivering feedback. Some business schools even teach humor as part of developing leadership ability.
  • Increase your resilience. The mental and physical health benefits of humor can help you through ordinary days and difficult times. Hardships are easier to bear when you can recognize the irony in the situation.

With all these benefits, how can you cultivate your sense of humor? Consider the following:

  • Be kind. Tasteless jokes and ridiculing others are more likely to get you fired than promoted. You want to generate the kind of humor that creates social bonds and takes a playful view of life. The shortest distance between two people is laughter.
  • Smile more. Start out by looking friendly and approachable. Smiling at others will give you more opportunities to have fun.
  • Hang out. Surround yourself with family and friends who know how to enjoy themselves. Laughter is contagious. Sharing routine activities can be just as diverting as jokes and pranks.
  • Act silly. You could be missing out on joyful experiences because you’re worried about looking foolish. In reality, you’ll probably earn more respect by letting go of your need for approval and behaving more authentically.
  • Think creatively. What can you learn from a comedy writer’s brain? MRI scans show higher levels of activity in the temporal lobe where spontaneous associations are made. Try new things and trust your instincts.
  • Take risks. Being funny may require sharing your thoughts and feelings. You can start small in situations where you feel safe, like with your family or chatting online.
  • Fake it. What if you’re having trouble finding anything funny? Even simulated laughter can lift your spirits. Pretend to chuckle and feel it turn into the real thing.
  • Play with kids. Children are an excellent source of inspiration. Listen to their stories and join their games. Your dog may be willing to share some pointers too.
  • Watch videos. As long as you have an internet connection, you can access a wide variety of amusing content. Watch cats shredding toilet paper or senior citizens disco dancing.
  • Use props. Laughter is more effective when you practice on a daily basis. Keep objects around that will remind you to take a break. Decorate your office desk with windup toys. Hang a set of oversized forks and spoons in your kitchen.
  • Shift your perspective. Almost anything can be humorous if you change the way you look at yourself and your world. Look for the entertainment value in parent teacher conferences and garbage strikes. Emotional intelligence depends on striking a balance between humor and seriousness.

Laugh your way to greater happiness, health, and success. Using humor kindly and responsibly can help you to heal and fulfill your true potential. So watch the funny cat videos or binge on your favorite sitcom every now and then. And be sure to spend time with kids and pets. They’re funny without even trying!

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