Recent research has shown us that when we take the time to relax and play, we will become healthier, happier, more creative, and more resilient to life’s little setbacks. When we choose to have fun, to let go and laugh, our physiology actually changes. Our blood pressure drops, our glands release natural pain-killing hormones, and our tensely held muscles finally let go and relax. We even become more effective and productive at work if we find time for lighthearted fun in the midst of our busy days and weeks.
Let’s face it, our lives have become cluttered with countless activities, commitments to empty relationships and a long list of “should’s” that seem to steal a little bit more of our lightheartedness from us every day. Our lives can become exhausting, when our true wish is to go through life with a greater sense of pleasure and relaxation. Have you convinced yourself that it’s wrong or childish to be silly or laugh out loud? Were you told growing up that it wasn’t appropriate to play, and that you should just be serious?
It seems as if we’ve been conditioned not to have any fun. We’ve been told that only certain types of fun are acceptable…after all, we are adults not children. Yet, a little voice inside of us continues to demand our own brand of playfulness and fun. In our hearts, most of us know that fun is good for us.
In 1998, Robin Williams starred in a film about a physician in West Virginia named Patch Adams who used humor as part of his “bedside manner” to help ease the pain of children who had been diagnosed as terminally ill. So…if laughter can heal the sick and ease their pain, just imagine what it can do to heal your relationships.
We cannot imagine what our relationship would be like without laughter. Our goal is to laugh and play a little each day. If we have not laughed at ourselves or some situation during the day, then we make it a practice to watch a funny sitcom or read something funny before we retire to bed at night. We need something to lighten the day and to remind us that life is as fun as we choose to make it.
Our friend Marci Shimoff recently wrote a book called, Happy For No Reason. We highly recommend her book. In Keith’s book, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Discover The Purpose Of Your Life, Marci says, “Recent studies show that we all have a ‘happiness set point,’ a level of happiness that we tend to stay at, no matter what happens to us (yes, including winning the lottery!), unless we consciously do something to change it.
So, can we change it? It turns out that fifty percent of our set point is determined by our genes; we’re born with it. The great news is that only ten percent is based on our circumstances, and the other forty percent is based on our habitual thoughts and behaviors. That’s what we can change, and forty percent can make a huge difference.
We’re all so busy trying to change our circumstances in life and gather all the things and achievements we think will make us happy. But that’s not where happiness is to be found; all that stuff accounts for just 10 percent of our happiness. According to science, the way we can significantly raise our happiness set point and enjoy a stable state of happiness is by changing our habitual thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.”
Here are some suggestions for bringing more fun and laughter into your life:
1. Pin-point what relieves your tension and stress — and do it — as long as it’s not at someone else’s expense. (It can be as simple as hopping onto a web page filled with jokes and reading it.)
2. If you’re in a relationship with someone, do something together that you both love to do. If you are single, call a friend or just do something that you haven’t done in a long time that used to bring you laughter and joy. Remember a time when you were extremely happy and go there either physically or in the mind.
3. Laugh at yourself when you notice that you’ve been taking yourself too seriously. We do this all the time, and especially when we see that we’ve fallen back into some old patterns that no longer serve us. First we laugh, and then we give ourselves credit for the times that we are able to keep it light and not be so serious all of the time.
4. Rent – or go to the theater to see – a funny movie! It’s nice sometimes to just escape the serious mind and laugh out loud with others. Here are a few of our favorite comedies:
Little Miss Sunshine
Dan In Real Life
(Can you tell by our choices that Jim Carrey and Steve Carell are two of our favorite comic actors?)
5. Play with a kitten or play-catch with a dog.
Laughter transports us beyond frustration and disappointment, provides a healthy release for our anger and can change the way we handle interpersonal conflict. Laughter is good for our physiology as well as our state of mind. It improves our blood circulation, helps us breath deeper, and releases endorphins which decrease our perception of pain. Laughing causes us to contract our abdominal muscles – which is way more fun than doing stomach crunches — and it causes a reflexive relaxation of other muscles groups. It also improves our digestion by massaging our intestines. Since laughter helps us manage our stress, it improves our immune cell function and helps lower high blood pressure.
So, why not try something new, make mistakes, take your time, make a mess (and clean it up!), find the courage to experiment in new ways and do new things, and most of all, do whatever healthy things make you laugh the hardest and the most often. We wish you much laughter, joy and happiness.
Keith and Maura
About the Author:
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Keith Leon and Maura Leon are co-owners of Successful Communications consulting and training, and co-authors of The Seven Steps to Successful Relationships. Keith and Maura have more than twenty-five years of combined training and experience in the field of personal and professional development. They’ve worked with leading experts of transformation, including Jack Canfield, Byron Katie, Michael Beckwith, Terry Cole-Whittaker, John Gray, Barbara DeAngelis and T. Harv Eker. As professional speakers, life coaches and authors, they support both men and women in the areas of career, family, community and love relationships. Their passion is building personal and professional relationships that work.