Laugh as though your life depends on it

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“Did you ever wake up, kiss the person next to you, and know it’s going to be a good day? I did that yesterday, and apparently, I’m not allowed on that airline again.”

Did that give you a bit of a laugh? Or even a slight smile? If yes, then good things are happening for your body, your mind, and your spirit. We all know that there are many physical, mental and social benefits from laughter, whether it’s a gut-bustin’ chortle, a tear-generating guffaw, or even a diminutive giggle. Laughter is powerful, and medical research around the world agrees.

You probably know that there are agreed-upon physical benefits from laughter: it lowers your blood pressure, releases pain-reducing chemicals in your brain, oxygenates your blood, strengthens your immune system, may lower blood sugar - and it’s free! Many doctors and researchers agree that laughter improves your mood, relieves anxiety and fear, reduces stress and creates a more positive state of mind.

“Humor is so important that I place it as a daily requirement for a healthy heart, just like diet, exercise and sleep,” says Dr. Michael Miller, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “In fact, a good laugh will make you more likely to experience a good night’s sleep, and give you more motivation to exercise.” Other benefits are that you’ll feel less pain, you’ll sharpen your brain, you’ll stress less. Cool!

“Kids today don’t know how easy they have it. When I was young, I had to walk nine feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.”

Did that cause another laugh or smile? Great! As we get older we may get wiser, but we don’t laugh nearly enough. Again with the research: Children laugh 200-300 times a day. Adults laugh about 10-15. Think about how easy it is even for babies to giggle uncontrollably during a repeated bout of “peekaboo,” or for young children to fall down laughing when something silly happens. We can recapture some of that child-like joy if we take the opportunities. I recently discovered the clinical directive for laughter as a viable heart-rehab tool. One afternoon this past June after a movie, I was alarmed by some tightness in my chest, along with stomach-churning dizziness. Long story short: within a few hours, I had undergone a quadruple bypass procedure — not the way I had planned to spend the summer! And the hospital’s official recovery information included laughter as a daily exercise requirement. I learned firsthand the lesson that I had been teaching to business groups for years.

What can you do? Oh, so much! Join or form a laugh club. Take a laughter yoga class. Host a game night. Read funny authors. Watch comedy on TV or the internet. Blow soap bubbles. Separate yourself from negative people. Concentrate on the good. And celebrate your victories. Laugh as though your life depends on it — because I know it does!

Bob Wells is a theater director and actor, teacher, and a national speaker based in Denver. His keynotes and workshops address humor and leadership, creativity/innovation, teamwork, and laughter and health. He is the director of “Chicken Lips Comedy Theater.” For more information, go to the World Humor Organization website, www.chickenlips.com. This column is hosted by the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County. Please join us for our next meeting on Oct. 3 at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, 9203 S. University Blvd., Highlands Ranch. Our business meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. Our presentation and community conversation will begin at 10:15 a.m. JJ Jordan, the Community Chair for Dementia Friendly Denver, will be our guest speaker. The topic is “The Latest Hopeful Research on Cognitive Health.” Our meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit www.MyDougCoSeniorLife.com, email DCSeniorLife@douglas.co.us or call 303-663-7681.

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