Valentine’s Day. I hope you had a chance to lighten up. To laugh mirthfully. To enjoy the moment, with family, friends, a lover, a partner or a pet. Truth be told, the lighter side of life could extend your life.
Laughter as Medicine
Facts are mounting that laughter is serious medicine for a long life. Clearly, I am dating myself, but George Burns, a stand-up comic, was actually booked to perform on his 100th birthday in London, but didn’t make it. Bob Hope performed stand-up comedy well into his 90’s. And Phyllis Diller was still performing in her late 80’s. What gives? Consider the following before you pooh-pooh this idea:
- Centenarians are often extroverts. In a word, this is the defining observation of the Longevity Genes Project.
- The more humor in your life, the higher your chance of survival. As the old adage says: “You don’t stop laughing because you’re old. You grow old because you stop laughing.”
- Among near-death patients, a good sense of humor increased survival by 31%.
- Laughing induces positive emotions and optimistic feelings, it increases oxygen intake, stimulates the circulation and relaxes muscles. It triggers brain endorphins, neurotransmitters that make you feel happier, and reduces pain.
- Laughter can help you forget, even for a moment. In the words of author Milan Kandera: “Joking is a barrier between man and the world.”
- “Clown doctors” now visit pediatric hospitals in 4 continents (US, Australia, South America and France). It’s not clear whether kids benefit from a feeling of superiority, empathy (as allies), a sense of control or hope generated by the clowns.
- The laughter of mothers can help treat infant diseases.
- Surgeons have used humor to distract patients from pain since the 13th century. But trust me, modern anesthesia is much better.
A Giggle Guide
Here’s how to add this exceptionally valuable and widely available free medicine to your life:
1. Spend time around kids; remember laughter is contagious (apologies to infertile couples here)
2. Find positive, light-hearted people and catch the laughter flu
3. Go see a stand-up comic
4. Follow a comedy series on TV, preferably one without canned laughter.
5. Laugh at yourself
6. Cut out a cartoon joke you like and tack to the wall at work. Look at it a lot.
7. Join a laughter club or laughter Yoga.
So, lightening up not only feels good, it is good, even great, for your life. In the words of Milton Berle (again, dating myself): “Laughter is an instant vacation.”