Just for the Health of it

What should you do when it’s been a trying day, everything’s gone wrong and you just want to scream? Go ahead and scream. Then find something humorous in the situation and laugh. Laugh? Yes, laugh.

According to Steven Sultanoff, PhD—a psychologist in Irvine, California, and the president of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor—laughter can both change how you feel physically and affect your biochemistry. He says that one cannot experience humor and feel depressed, anxious or angry at the same time.

“In those moments of experiencing humor, other feelings dissolve, providing a respite...as well as hope that those other feelings can be reduced or eliminated,” Sultanoff explains.

Unfortunately, if you’re like many adults, you don’t laugh much. It is common knowledge among humor professionals that, whereas children laugh about 400 times a day, adults laugh only 15 times! How can you increase the laughter in your life? Like exercise, humor is best experienced in spurts throughout the day. It’s really easy to find things that inject humor and joy into everyday life. Try some of these techniques from Carrie Myers Smith—wellness coach, author and president of Women in Wellness—who spoke with Sultanoff and other humor experts.

1. Expand Your Comic Vision. Sultanoff defines comic vision as the ability to perceive the humor around you and notes, “It begins with discovering what tickles [your] funny bone.” He adds that your comic vision expands as you share your humor with others. Karyn Buxman, RN, MSN, author of This Won’t Hurt a Bit! and Other Fractured Truths in Healthcare, agrees. She says, “The first step in finding humor in a situation is to assume it’s there.”

2. Use Props to Inspire Humor. Sultanoff recommends doing something wacky, such as wearing a clown nose at least once a day for a week, or keeping a stash of toys on hand. “I blow bubbles from my car while stopped at traffic lights or while waiting in line at a drive-through, fast-food restaurant,” he offers. Of course, if you prefer a subtler approach, he suggests “wearing a humorous pin or keeping a set of windup toys or [rubber] balls at your work station.”

3. Take Advantage of Laughable Moments. Unless, for instance, you’re held at gunpoint, a situation isn’t necessarily stressful in and of itself; your perception of the situation is what creates stress. The next time you trip over that same door threshold you’ve tripped over countless times, just imagine yourself as a modern-day Dick Van Dyke and laugh.

4. Be Spontaneous in Your Humor. One way to do this is to read signs literally. Sultanoff recalls waiting in a cafeteria line and seeing a sign that read, “We only accept U.S. traveler’s checks.” He turned to the cashier and said, “I guess I’ll have to put everything back. I only have cash!” He not only had a good laugh himself but also shared his humor with another and brightened her day.

5. Act as Though Things Really Are Funny. The older you become, the more responsibilities you take on, the more stressful life becomes and the less you laugh. Things that you once considered funny just aren’t anymore. The problem may be your perception. In any event, Madan Kataria, MD—a Bombay, India, physician who incorporates laughter into yoga workouts—says that even pretending to be amused can sometimes brighten your day.
Reprinted with permission of IDEA Health & Fitness Assoaciation,www.IDEAfit.com

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