by Harry Livesay, LCSW
Division Head of Therapy Services
I made the discovery years ago, laughter is a powerful way to start the day. One day I had the television on for background noise while getting ready for the busy work week ahead. It was a rainy Monday morning, and I Love Lucy was on. As I watched and listened, I found myself laughing my Monday mood away. Such is the power of laughter.
Much has been written about the healing effects of laughter. Journalist Norman Cousins famously chronicled the effects of his “laughing cure” in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient (W.W. Norton, 1979, 2001, 2005). Cousins, who suffered from inflammatory arthritis, claimed that ten minutes of hearty laughter while watching Marx Brothers movies brought him two hours of pain-free sleep.
Laughter is instinctive. Recent studies by Robert R. Provine, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Maryland (Penguin Books, 2000) indicate that laughter is more than a mere reaction to something funny, it is a form of communication. Possibly, the first one in the human race, pre-dating spoken language.
The physical benefits of laughter are many. When we laugh, we provide a deep massage for our internal organs. We lower our blood pressure and we release the body’s natural pain killers (endorphins) throughout our bodies and stimulate our immune system. Laughter changes us emotionally as well. When we laugh we literally “lighten up” and we feel more positive, optimistic, confident and engaged. We are friendlier, more resourceful and better company for family, friends and co-workers.
With this in mind, wouldn’t it be a good idea to begin the day with laughter? Before rushing off to work, try including a little comedy in your morning routine. Watch a scene from a funny movie or television show. Read the funny pages first instead of the headlines of your morning paper. Children love to laugh! They laugh approximately 300-400 times per day versus the average adult’s 4 -6 times per day. Tell some “knock, knock jokes”, look up some riddles and puns for breakfast with the kids. Turn on a podcast as you commute to work.
Laughing increases your chance of having a good day. It prepares you to cope effectively with stress and handle challenges ahead. Laugh a little this morning!