Ask Your Doctor to Prescribe: Laughter

Can we cure a virus with another contagious activity? Or at least increase our odds of not getting a virus? If the recommendation is for the very contagious laughter … The answer is yes!


Common knowledge is described by Cambridge dictionary as “something that is known to many people, but often not made known officially”.


The saying ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ is common knowledge. We know laughing is good for us, we can feel it and it is proven, in fact if you go to PubMed (the largest biomedical database), there are over 2000 published studies written specifically about the benefits of laughter.


So why doesn’t our doctor prescribe it more often?


An article in Forbes says: “Intuitively we know that laughter is one of the best tools we have for dealing with stress, and science backs that up. In fact, research into laughter goes even further, revealing that it's a potent drug with the contagious power of a virus that conveys a slew of benefits for the mind and body”. And the benefits of laughter reach far beyond stress reduction.


So why are we laughing less than previous generations?


You may argue that there is little to laugh about these days, but previous generations lived through world wars, genocides, famine, the great depression, and none of the comforts that we now have (and take for granted) and yet, they still found more reasons to laugh than we do.


So? Have we lost touch with our inner child? Have we lost touch perhaps with the importance of human connection?


Professor of psychology and neuroscience Robert Provine found out that, contrary to folk wisdom, most laughter is not about humor; it is about relationships between people”.



Humor of course does help, and at the beginning of the lockdown, the daily jokes in the various chats kept me going, but the best laughs, the one that bring down tears, give you stomach cramps, literally take your breath away, are the ones we share with people.




As kids, my 2 cousins and I spent many holidays together and the giggles and belly laughter we had were epic and too many to count. Pure unadulterated abandonment. Most kids have a natural ability to giggle-away their days…



I still occasionally have those kind of tear-inducing laughters with my sisters, my husband and a few chosen friends. My friend Meridith and I, can cause somewhat of an earthquake when we get together and burst into one of our heartfelt, fall-to-the-ground laughters.



As adults, the people with whom we can let our guards down and get out-of-control-ridiculously-silly with, are the ones we are truly close to, or the ones we have a real human connection with, even in the first 5 minutes of knowing them.


There are few things in life that feel better, and a good laugh is a powerful and contagious medicine. So contagious in fact, that while researching this article, I was listening to laugh tracks and found myself laughing along, and while looking at pictures of smiling strangers to post here, I realised I was smiling. Laughter produces specific hormones that benefit our health and ignite profound metabolic and psychologicalchange.



Can we work at being more joyous and prone to spontaneous laughter?


Based on research and my own personal experience, I strongly believe we can. It is possible to foster the ability to experience joy and feel the lightness of being.

In fact, I often use humor with my clients and see the immediate transformation in their posture, outlook, and willingness to stick to a program. When they are able to laugh at a situation and at life in general, a shift begins.


Laughing at life doesn’t translate into not taking life seriously, or lacking empathy; on the contrary, it allows us to put problems into perspective, without the excess baggage of bitterness and resentment so we may clearly see the core issue and begin to work on it.

Richard Bandler one of the fathers of NLP[1], has written and spoken at length on the effects of humor and laughter, and has said “it is important for people to laugh at their own beliefs and their own difficulties, because exactly at the moment they start (laughing), they create a chemical foundation on which to create change”.


So how did we lose touch with our inner child? I believe adults are to blame!


From a very early age, our parents, teachers, religious leader and any adult involved in our upbringing, subject us (willingly or not) to public shaming and program us with an often negative conditioning made of societal and passed-down family beliefs we are forced to adhere to. This causes our inner child to become joy starved.


My report cards, and I know I am not alone in remembering this, always had words reading: “doesn’t apply herself enough”, “can do better”, “if only…” and at home the focus was never on the good grades or successes, but rather emphasised failure.

In fact, a study shows that if a child brings home 4 A’s and 1 C, the parents will focus their attention on the C and over 75% of the conversation will be spent discussing only 20% of the report card.


What about the other 80%? what about the 4 amazing A??


I am not implying we should not put boundaries, or never say no to our kids or even praise them for being last at a school race. But we can focus on building up rather than crushing down. And we should definitely use our words mindfully.

The child’s subconscious translates and records adult’s discontent and starts to believe “I am not enough” and even “I don’t deserve love”.


When as adults, we realise the beliefs created in childhood are not true, they are so deeply rooted, they are hard to unearth and this, is no laughing matter.


When our subconscious believes that we are not enough, it will tend to compensate with “more”: more food, more alcohol, more drugs, more things.



Focusing on the positive, we can replace negative beliefs and reignite our capacity for joy and laughter and as a result strengthen our health and increase our wellbeing.

Positive thinking is not a ‘new-age’ concept and it does not negate reality or the seriousness of a situation.


A 1925 study (that was never contradicted by later studies) by Dr. Elizabeth Hurlock found that:

  • Students who were praised in front of others improved their scores by 71%

  • Students who were criticized in front of others improved by 19%, and

  • Students who were ignored improved by 5%.

Even business productivity studies confirm that focusing on positive achievements rather than the areas that still need improvement, creates powerful results and increases profitability.


Using positive reinforcements with the people around us at home and at work, creates an environment that encourages cooperation. Going back to Dr. Hurlock’s studies, a sure way to awaken happy inner children all around you, is the use of positive feedback: “I like it when you…”, “I’m very proud of you for…”, “thank you for…” and “that’s a great way to…”, you fill in the blanks.



TRY THESE FOR SIZE:

SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER:

Thank you for taking the time to read this and feel free to contact me with your questions and comments.

Love and Joy,

Catherine





[1] Neuro Linguistic Programming

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