Laugh just for the health of it
This first column of 2016 is going to take exercising to a whole new level…or not depending on how you look at it. Yes, it’s time for that traditional pitch we’ve all come to expect in the New Year–the one reminding us to get in shape after a holiday season of delicious celebrations and possibly fewer trips to the gym. However, the exercise I’m advocating is nothing strenuous. Anyone can do it. You can sit, stand, or even stay on the couch if you want. You can join informal groups, take a class, or participate by phone. Laughing for exercise is what I am talking about and laughing for the health of it is my encouraging word for all of us this year.
For the “prove it to me” folks who want assurance “that this can be taken seriously,” there is documented research beyond that of Norman Cousins who was one of the first to test the importance of laughter. Medical and psychological experts are confirming that healthy doses of laughter each day have long lasting benefits to the mind, body and spirit. Mayo Clinic claims that “when it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctored ordered.” Specifically, laughter increases oxygen intake which stimulates heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by the brain. Doctors agree that fifteen minutes of laughter has a similar impact on the body as running, jogging, or doing aerobic-like activity. Long-term benefits include a strengthened immune system, pain relief and improved mood.
What makes laughter a fun way to exercise is that it can be done anytime, anywhere. We can laugh alone or in concert with others. Laughter can be our constant companion, our music of joy within. Laughter works in the face of fear or in response to foibles and foolishness. It’s truly beneficial to bend over laughing, fall to the ground laughing, roll on the floor laughing. The ultimate is to laugh so hard that we cry. In laughter classes that is called boo-hoo, ha-ha laughter.
If laughter doesn’t bubble up naturally, it’s okay. The brain doesn’t know the difference. For a little help, just observe a child. Children tend to laugh at everything, be a lot more light-hearted than adults, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s a great reminder for all of us as 2016 gets under way. See if there is room in your exercise routine for those muscles in your face, you know, the ones that make you smile…and laugh!