I read that a child laughs 400 times a day on the average, while an adult laughs only 15 times. Which puzzles me – what do you think the children are laughing at?
During one particularly dark period of my life I didn't laugh even 15 times a day. Not nearly. For a variety of reasons, ranging from anxiety in my personal life to overwork and exhaustion, I was depressed. I may not yet have recognized it as depression (later I did), but now I can see that the signs were there.
My self-loathing surfaced once when I found myself driving alone on a cold Spring afternoon to spend a couple of days with colleagues on a work-related planning session. “I don't have time for this!” I said out loud, and berated myself for not saying no. I was leaving my spouse to contend with children by herself while my daily work piled up in my absence. I felt submerged by an ocean of problems, professional and personal, with no chance of finding any way out. Everything looked bleak.
I met my colleagues for supper the first evening. To my surprise, we sat around the dinner table telling funny stories. We related real-life incidents that had happened to each of us. I had to admit, even in my despondency, that it was good to laugh. And those turned out to be some of the funniest stories I had ever heard! My anxiety melted as I relaxed and I found myself laughing hard – harder than I'd laughed for years.
The next day we worked, but we also played. We invented games using whatever recreational equipment we could lay our hands on. The sheer fun of playing, something else I hadn't done for far too long, awakened something within me I thought I might never feel again.
The following day I returned home and I felt better than I had in months. Though it eventually took a lifestyle change to lift the depression for good, laughter became a key ingredient of that change. I determined then and there that a therapy of laughter would become a permanent part of my life. I've held to it, and have found that regular and hearty laughter is essential if I want to maintain inner peace and good health.
I had discovered a great truth about laughter – it is good for the body, the mind and the spirit. It's a natural stress reliever. Have you ever laughed so hard that you doubled over, fell off your chair, spit out your food or wet your pants? (Yes, I'm not proud to say, I have.) You just cannot maintain muscle tension when you are laughing.
Author Norman Cousins used to say that laughter is so beneficial for your body that it is like “inner jogging.” Numerous studies have shown that laughter is good for your heart, it boosts your immune system and promotes overall good health.
The good news is that you are not limited to 15 laughs a day. You're allowed hundreds of laughs. What might happen if you doubled the usual adult rate and tried to laugh 30 times today? Can you do it? You'll probably notice an immediate difference in how you feel.
Then try to laugh 50 times a day. By this time you will begin to notice an improvement in your relationships.
But don't stop there. What if you could find 100 reasons to laugh every day? You can do it by surrounding yourself with people you feel good around, looking for humor in daily life, taking a minute to remember what's funny and even keeping a journal of whatever makes you happy.
Find 100 reasons to laugh. You are bound to feel better, you will cope with problems more effectively and people will enjoy being around you.
Besides unhappiness, what do you have to lose?
-– Steve Goodier (Life Support System)