Beware! All serious people should be alert to the beginning symptoms of the laughter contagion. When the corners of your mouth turn up involuntarily and you must continually swallow unsolicited giggles, run for cover! You may have the Laughter Addiction. The laughter high that we gain when we laugh until we hold our sides, roll about on the floor, feel the tears streaming down our cheeks (and perhaps down our legs as well) is addicting. What protects people from such loosey-goosey, nonsensical fun? Our serious, controlled, approach to everything from sex to the family vacation.
Human beings are not born serious. We begin life fully equipped with an innate playfulness and the ability to laugh freely. Sadly, we curb our playfulness and our laughter as a sacrifice to the serious business of adulthood. In order to keep laughing, we need to be in a partial state of playfulness, consciously or unconsciously. Laughter therapy can help us ease our adult seriousness and retrieve that lost sensation of play.
Laughter is not only fun. It is also good for us. At last! Something good for us that is also enjoyable. There is no need for "yukky tasting" concoctions, profuse sweating in concentrated exercise, or a change in our diet for this particular pursuit of health. All that’s required is pure, unrestrained, old-fashioned laughter. It heals the body and eases painful emotions like anger and fear. It helps us cope with daily survival in a pleasant and effective way. Since laughter is born of tension, stress, and pain, most of us need not worry about being able to laugh. Stress is the number one health problem today, and we’ve all got it.
Laughter therapy is a term used by many, but for our purposes, it is learning to laugh freely again at the many things we deal with that aren’t funny. Children will play with almost anything except direct pain. Adults were intended to do the same. When we can play with our pain, we laugh. When we laugh, we shift our perspective and problems shrink to a manageable size. We don't diminish importance, but we are less overwhelmed.
If waves of laughter were sweeping the land, waves of violence would not be possible. Laughter is warm, bonding, and contagious. We need to connect with those we love and with our fellow human beings. We need to feel good. We need to feel safe. We need to laugh more.
Anyone can join the laughter movement. All it takes is a willingness to risk some loss of control. The timid may start with a few shy giggles. The courageous may jump in with deep belly laughter. A sense of humor is not required. There’s more than enough stress to go around and absurdity abounds in our daily lives. All we have to do is believe, let go, clap our hands and laughter will live again. So will we. Laughter is feeling deeply which allows us to live fully.
We can encourage laughter at home by being playful with our families. Wear a clown nose when you put your children to bed. Break up the chores by indulging in a pillow fight. Ease conflict by saying something light and unexpected. Let hand puppets help with your communication or say it with a humorous hat. Life at home doesn’t have to be serious. It’s far too important.
Strive to slip laughter into the workplace with a few lighthearted windup toys. Play with your frustrations by writing them on the soles of your shoes and walk on them. Wear a temporary tatoo that expresses your mood for the day. No one need see it. Practice laughing so you can laugh when you need it most. Find ways to celebrate your stress. If you’ve got it, you might as well enjoy it.
Mother Nature laughs. She created people playful and funny. She also created laughter. Sadly, in pursuit of serious things, we have short circuited both our play and our laughter. In our frenzy to succeed and to have it all, we have shortened everything. We have fast food, fast banking, fast fun, fast shopping, and fast sex. Life is a longer process on a shorter schedule and for that we need lots of laughter. Our natural laughter has no place on the internet nor does it advertise itself in an infomercial. It’s neither fast-paced nor high tech. It’s not expensive and can’t be bought in a shopping mall. We can’t pay others to laugh for us and reap the same benefits. All of us can do it ourselves, however, because we’re born with it. So—if we’re going to "smell the roses" from a drive-in window, at least we can laugh at our own folly.
©1999 Enda Junkins
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