My New Year’s resolution is not about the usual things people resolve to do, or not to do. I’m not going to lose weight, although I should. The problem is I wouldn’t be able to eat all the foods I like. I’m not giving up coffee, even though I drink too much. I have to have my coffee. I’m not going to push my envelope and join Toastmasters and be more outgoing, which would probably also be good for me. But most of them meet so damn early, before everyone goes to work. I’m not going to quit drinking and smoking because I already did, decades ago, so those resolutions aren’t available to me.
My resolution is to laugh, as often as possible! Out loud. Heartily. Disruptively. Indelicately. I’m going to let it all hang out. And all with the backing of the medical profession. Laughter is healing. Wise people have always known its positive effects intuitively, but in recent years scientists and medical professionals have been seriously—yes, you heard me right, seriously—studying laughter and performing experiments. They have scientifically verified its health benefits by measuring endorphin activity.
Laughter increases endorphins. These are hormones produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland that can reduce pain and produce a feeling of euphoria. They’re the groovy hormones, the feel-good chemicals produced by the brain. While it’s busy increasing endorphins, laughter is also decreasing levels of stress-producing hormones like epinephrine and cortisol. Laughter increases physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual health, says the Mayo Clinic. It is one of their twelve habits of highly healthy people.
The more you laugh, the easier it gets. You can practice. Go to funny movies, have funny friends (I’m available), read books that make you laugh. Read my blog. Have pets, a rich source of the best kind of laughter, which is affectionate laughter. Play with them, chase them around, rough-house with them, unless you have a 160-pound mastiff. Or just watch them. When I watch my two cats playing hide and seek and tussling and wrestling and chasing each other in the yard I laugh, unstress, and feel peaceful. I luxuriate in the feeling of my endorphins going crazy, flying around, crashing into and bouncing off of each other like bumper cars.
Laughter Yoga is gaining in popularity everywhere. It’s a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter and done in groups, with eye contact and coordinated movements as well as spontaneous playfulness. At first the laughter feels weird, awkward and forced. Dorky, actually, which was how I felt at my first session. But with persistence and regular practice it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. By the end of a session people are howling with laughter.
It’s always been common knowledge that to stay healthy, you need to eat sensibly, exercise, and socialize, and now it’s established that you also need to laugh. Laugh every chance you get. Laugh your brains out. Laugh till you cry. Laugh till it hurts. Laugh till you get dizzy. LOL. FOFL.
Just try not to fart. Actually though, farting has its health benefits too. The Mayo Clinic says food that causes gas brings nutrients to beneficial microbes in the gut. The microbes gobble up food, create gas, and make molecules that boost the immune system…. Well, enough of that for now. I’ll have to do a separate piece on farting.
Happy New Year!