I know a person who, when he sees me, will oftensay, “Smile, Bob.” I know another person who, in the ordinary course of a day, willaudibly laugh and groan about even the smallest ups and downs. Both personshave hit upon a wonderful tonic for body, mind, and spirit. Smiling andlaughing are proven to enhance health, reduce stress, relieve pain, and buildenergy. They’re good things to do for yourself and for those around you.
Smiling is a great place to start, because smilingdoes not tend to make one feel self-conscious. You don’t feel like smiling? Doit anyway. Smiling when you’re blue can get you back to a rosy mood. After threeto four minutes of smiling, your brain begins to get the message: “I’m smiling– I must be happy.” And so you are.
Dr. Robert Zajong at the University of Michigan,director of the Institute for Social Research, believes that he knows why thishappens. When you smile you change the direction of the blood flow inside yourface in such a way that it causes the temperature of the blood to drop. Coolerblood entering the region of the brain known as the hypothalmus results in arelease of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
I talked about this last week in relation tobreathing deep. I mentioned that it was important to breathe in through thenose and out through the mouth. Now we know why. Breathing in through the mouthdoes not lower the temperature of the blood supply to the hypothalmus, so itdoesn’t have the same energy building, pain relieving, stress reducing, andhealth enhancing benefits.
Smiling has the same impact as deep breathing.Laughing takes it one step further. Laughing circulates the blood even morevigorously. Do it for very long or very often and it actually becomes a form ofaerobic exercise. You don’t feel like laughing? There’s nothing funny? You’reworried about what will people think? Do it anyway. “Laugh and the world laughswith you,” is more than just a trite old saying. It reflects theinterconnectedness of life, which is never more visible than when laughterstarts spreading from one person to another.
My father-in-law had an exuberant laugh. Whensomething tickled his fancy, he laughed out loud with a belly laugh that wouldsoon infect everyone in his presence. One quickly stopped laughing at theoriginal comic situation and started laughing at my father-in-law’s enjoymentof that situation. At times, it was hard to stop.
There are churches that have replaced music or evensermons with laughter sessions. No jokes are told. One or more people juststart laughing. Slowly it spreads around the room until everyone has caught theSpirit. These churches see laughter as a gift of the Spirit to be celebrated,incorporated, and encouraged. They call it holy laughter.
India has seen an explosion of laughter clubs. Likerunners getting up for their morning run, these clubs get together between 6and 7 in the morning to have 15–20 minutes of laughter. Once again, no jokesare told. After stretching and limbering up, they simply egg each other intoextended bouts of hilarity. They laugh until they can’t stand it any more.Based upon a mirth-inducing posture technique derived from yoga, theypractice different types of laughing including Hearty Laughter, SilentLaughter, Medium Laughter, Dancing Laughter, Cocktail Laughter, Arm-SwingingLaughter, One Meter Laughter and many others.
Smiling and laughing are lostarts. Young children do them hundreds of time per day. Adults are lucky if theymanage 15. Anything we can do to smile and laugh like little children willrestore our health and wonder. No other living beings can smile and laugh. Theyare special gifts of God. Don’t wait for something funny. Fake it, if you haveto, until your mind and spirit catch up with your body. They will, and you’llbe glad you did.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC