Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Laughter Is The One Dance Death Never Learned

Pay attention, folks. There is a quiz coming later.

I know a woman named Holly who used to live near my folks. Her life is very hard. She has several serious illnesses and is the sole caretaker for her elderly mother, who is now showing signs of dementia. When we talk on the phone, and I hear the staggering array of maladies and general ill fortune that has befallen these folks, I hear something else -- the sound of Holly's laughter.

She will be going through the list of weekly events that are difficult enough to hobble a bull elephant and will then pause and say --"...but what the hell -- outside of that, life is pretty damned interesting." Then she will just crack up. Then she'll say, "I gotta laugh. Cryin' doesn't help."

But laughter does help. Holly manages to take step after step and is getting through situations others might find impossible.

"I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose." ~Woody Allen

What is it about laughter?

Fifteen facial muscles contract and stimulation of the zygomatic major muscle (the main lifting mechanism of your upper lip) occurs. Meanwhile, the respiratory system is upset by the epiglottis half-closing the larynx, so that air intake occurs irregularly, making you gasp. In extreme circumstances, the tear ducts are activated, so that while the mouth is opening and closing and the struggle for oxygen intake continues, the face becomes moist and often red (or purple). The noises that usually accompany this bizarre behavior range from sedate giggles to boisterous guffaws. (a description of laughter from How Stuff Works")

Good thing it doesn't feel as dreadful as the description or we'd never do it.

It's actually good for us to laugh. About.com says it:
1. Releases adrenaline, dopamine and increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters, increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells, creating a stronger immune system, as well as reducing stress.

2. Provides a Physical Release. Laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Blood pressure goes down, and oxygenation of the blood increases, which further assists healing. Laughter also gives your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout. That's why you often feel exhausted after a long bout of laughter -- you've just had an aerobic workout!

3. Exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.

4. Brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.

5. Connects us with others. Also, laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you to laugh more, and realize these benefits as well.

"So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter." ~Gordon W. Allport

Eugene O'Neil wrote a play called "Lazarus Laughed". He got raised from the dead and laughed. That makes sense to me. Laughter can also be from joy.

The world hands us plenty to feel bad about. If you put your ear to the earth and listen for its sound, you might hear weeping. There is real suffering, serious injustice, dreadful and horrible pain in the world. But listen more deeply.

Press your ear to the earth and listen for the heart beat. It sounds like...wait...could it be ? It sounds like a deep chuckle, a self-satisfied soft laugh. How could we see a sunset and not smile, watch a baby take its first steps and not giggle? How could we go a day cheating the world of our joy?

Every emotion we feel, every statement we send into the universe affects the world. What do you want your contribution to be today?

"What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul." ~Yiddish Proverb

It cleanses us, laughter does. It washes out the fear, shakes out the shame, purges the sadness -- even if only for a short time. It heals us.

Norman Cousins, noted magazine editor, became completely disabled and unable to move in the 1960's. He checked into a hotel and insisted on a natural diet and positive energy. He watched funny movies all day long. Every day. he laughed. He recovered, lived til age 75 and died in the 1990's, walking and talking and giving seminars on laughter and healing until he passed away. Now, I am not a doctor, so this is not medical advice, but it is something worth thinking about. He said laughter substantially helped heal him.

Interested in laughing more? Check out World Laughter Day sponsored by the Laughter Yoga folks. Here is a dandy video of John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) checking out a Laughter Yoga group in India.

"A clown is like an aspirin, except that it works twice as fast."-- Groucho Marx.

So here is your quizlet. Please answer in the comment section below:

1. When was the last time you had a hearty laugh?

2. What can you tell us here that will make us laugh?

If enough of you comment, I'll tell you my true tale about The Dog, The Telephone Repairman and a Big Surprise. I promise you, you will laugh.

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward." ~Kurt Vonnegut

I've always thought that a big laugh is a really loud noise from the soul saying, "Ain't that the truth." ~Quincy Jones

"With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die." ~Abraham Lincoln


Anonymous Ellie Di said...

This couldn't have been more perfectly timed for me. I'm feeling the weight of the world, fo' sho' right now and desperately need to laugh and get it all out. Thank you.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Hang in there Ellie -- laugh out the kinks..it does help.


10:49 PM  
Anonymous This Eclectic Life said...

OK, you caught my attention with the Woody Allen quote, the picture of the horse tickled me, your facts drew me in ... and when you ended with John Cleese you had me hook,line, and sinker. I believe I have a new blog to follow!
I've always known that laughter was good for you ... not just for your "soul," but for your body (10-15 min of laughter can boost your metabolism by 20%).
I laugh every doggone day, but as for something to make you laugh ... I've got nothing at the moment.

2:06 PM  

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