Live on the Lighter Side of Life
June 5, 2009 by The Dove
I heard something about a swine flu the other day. And whats this about a recession?
Sure, I have a television just like most, but Im very selective about what I watch. If a program doesnt lift my spirits, positively educate me in some way or give me a good belly laugh, then Id prefer the remote to stay tucked under a cushion somewhere, along with the loose change, thank you very much.
Mainstream news websites have lost my interest too, thanks to their incessant reporting on war, crime, manufactured diseases and the like.
So why is it many of us glue ourselves to the six oclock news for our daily fix of depression and fear? Is it that weve become so hypnotized that we no longer realize what were actually doing?
Jamie Masada, founder of the world-famous Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, thinks so.
“The problem is with every news you see its €˜so and so got shot, police killed somebody, somebody killed police,” he says. “I one day want to do a Laugh Factory channel and make all of the news fun. Lets give people good news!”
“You see people going out of their houses, theyve got to wait in the traffic, then they go to the bank and line up or the post office and line up for a long time, then they go to work, then they want lunch they have to stand in line for half an hour … they waste their life. They go to the airport; they have to go two or three hours early to go through security. These things all cause people a lot of stress.”
If youre not ready to part with your remote or the Sunday paper, theres something you can do instantly to improve your emotional wellbeing, says the comedy king who works closely with comedic favorites including George Lopez, Bob Saget, Damon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Adam Sandler, Roseanne, Paul Rodriguez, Jamie Foxx, Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock and Rodney Dangerfield.
“Laughter is the best medicine. It really is,” he says. “The government should open clubs like The Laugh Factory all over the country to help people forget about this recession.”
Jamies not the only one who is getting the word out about the benefits of a good giggle. Oprah also promotes laughter as medicinal and good for the soul. She recently featured a story about “laughter yoga”, a complete wellbeing workout and daily exercise routine that combines unconditional laughter with yogic breathing.
Its founder Dr. Madan Kataria, who also hosts laughter vacations, caught comedian John Cleeses attention for his documentary thats focuses on the healing power of laughter. Dr Kataria started the first Laughter Yoga club in a Mumbai park in 1995, with just five people. It seems laughter not only good for you, but contagious.
Dr Norman Cousins, whom Masada worked with often, was well known for incorporating laughter into the life of his patients and his own to overcome disease and illness. He developed a recovery program incorporating megadoses of Vitamin C, along with a positive attitude, love, faith, hope, and laughter (helped by watching Marx Brothers films).
Cousins was quoted as saying: “I made the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anaesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep. When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”
Masada remembers Cousins’ unorthodox approach to recovery well.
“He used to bring a lot of cancer patients in here and we would make them all laugh,” he says. “He had research going on, showing how much laughter makes endorphins in your body and make people think that they can be cured.”
So strong is his belief that laughter is essential to wellbeing, Masada has dedicated his life to bringing humor to the young and old, through free comedy nights and camps for children. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas the Laugh Factory hosts free dinners for struggling artists and the homeless. Masada also started Comedy Camp in 1984, which has helped over 800 underprivileged children in the Los Angeles area learn the ropes of stand-up with the help of volunteer instructors such as Ellen DeGeneres, the Wayans Brothers, and Chris Rock. For his work with underprivileged kids, he received the NAACP Freedom Award in 2003, and in 2006 was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
“I bring a bunch of old people in to watch the show for an hour and a half, two hours. When they walk in you can see their faces, they look like they are really miserable, they dont want to be there. But as soon as they sit down and spend an hour and a half, two hours laughing you see man and woman holding each others arms, smiling at each other. That makes my day.”
Head to www.laughfactory.com/content/Petition.html to sign a petition that will help take The Laugh Factory on tour and bring laughter to the masses.
Forget how to do it? Learn to live on the lighter side of life, courtesy of our friends at helpguide.org
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the bodys natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You cant feel anxious, angry, or sad when youre laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.
Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter. Like laughter, its contagious. Pioneers in “laugh therapy,” find its possible to laugh without even experiencing a funny event. The same holds for smiling. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling.
Count your blessings. Literally make a list. The simple act of considering the good things in your life will distance you from negative thoughts that are a barrier to humor and laughter. When in a state of sadness, we have further to travel to get to humor and laughter.
When you hear laughter, move toward it. Sometimes humor and laughter are private, a shared joke among a small group, but usually not. More often, people are very happy to share something funny because it gives them an opportunity to laugh again and feed off the humor you find in it. When you hear laughter, seek it out and ask, “Whats funny?”
Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily-both at themselves and at lifes absurdities-and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious.
Bring humor into conversations. Ask people, “Whats the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”
Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screensaver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond our control-particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run its unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.
Main photo: Ciaran McGuiggan, Flickr Creative Commons