Saturday, March 20, 2010

Laughter is the Sun . . .

Last night, I enjoyed a wonderful performance of the commedia dell'arte masterpiece, The Servant of Two Masters, at the Yale Rep.

While I was completely delighted and entertained, the play received mixed responses from the audience. Some people said the performance was too silly, lightweight, and not much of a play. Others laughed heartily at the slapstick, puns, modern references, and physical comedic devices.

Vive la différence!

Although I respect the varied tastes people have in humor, as with anything, I'm concerned about the mood that persists in the world today.

Along with the constant reminders of doom and gloom, the media seem to portray depression, anxiety, and fear as expected consequences of contemporary living. And, the primary relief available comes in the form of prescription medication with serious side effects!

What about other truly natural ways to build your immune functioning and help you develop resiliency in the face of life's stressors?

One effective way involves laughter.

Over 30 years ago, in Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins chronicled his use of funny movies and tapes to provoke "unquenchable" laughter, reduce pain, and eventually restore his health. Since the era of Cousins' mind-opening self-care strategies, many medical researchers have found empirical evidence for the connection between laughter and various measures of healthy functioning.

As Dr. Lee Berk, a self-described "hardcore medical clinician and scientist" says, " . . . there is an intrinsic physiological intervention brought about by positive emotions such as mirthful laughter, optimism, and hope." By actively engaging in these emotions, you make lifestyle choices that will have a significant impact on your health relative to prevention and treatment.

Cousins claimed that, as a young boy, he had "set out to discover exuberance."

With these provocative findings in mind, you might reflect on the following questions:
  • What are the sources of exuberance in your life?
  • In what ways do you cultivate laughter, smiling, silliness, optimism, and related cheerful experiences in your daily living?
Then, consider how you might consciously change your day to include more opportunities for mirth.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Cut out and post your favorite cartoons in a common space at work
  • Ask others (e.g., coworkers, family, friends) to join in developing a comedy file
  • Create a Mirth Masters group to share funny stories, jokes, puns, or riddles
  • Set aside a "Comedy Hour" with your family for films, games, etc.
  • Share the day's funny experiences with a friend or family
  • Keep a journal or blog of your positive, inspiring experiences
  • Nurture relationships with people who like to play
  • Read articles and books that support you (e.g., Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff)
  • Check out sites such as www.humorproject.com
  • And more . . .
In these and other ways, you will develop your own sense of humor, and allow for more joy in your life.

Finally, the words of Bengali master Rabindranath Tagore suggest an important place to begin:

"The burden of self is lightened when I laugh at myself."

May you begin and end each day with a smile in your heart!

Love and Peace,
Dave

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