I’ve been in the comedy business for three decades now, and I’m still perplexed at the lack of respect or understanding there is regarding the value of humor.
Old thoughts should be re-examined and then re-turned to sender. We’ve been bombarded with messages that prevent us from laughing more, due to blind acceptance of false information we’ve been given by parents and society as a whole.
“Wipe that smile off your face.” “What are YOU laughing at?” “You look so silly.” “You must take this seriously or you’ll fail.” “You’re laughing like a fool.” “Grow up!”……These are but a few nuggets our brains were filled with when we were filled with, so it’s no shock that people have difficulty letting go and having a good time, with such negativity rattling in their heads.
When I let go of the programmed belief that I look like an idiot if I laugh, and allow a truthful connection to what is, then my entire being feels uplifted. Actually, it centers and strengthens me. I’m not “crazy.” Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held it’s ground.
Children laugh a hundred times more often than adults. Due to the illusion of stress and pressure, most adults do not laugh anywhere near the amount of times a child does. When a young boy or girl relates to their friends, they connect through laughter and sharing of joy, while adults have a propensity to bond by way of gossip and anger. Parents watch negative programs that demean and deflate, and their kids watch shows based on the fun, ridiculous and silly. When I’m around my own kids, we constantly crack up, and that takes away thoughts of lack or worry. When we are joking and clowning, I’ve never once stopped in my tracks and said: “Whoa. The economy is in the toilet today.”
I’ve been blessed to be able to travel the world by performing standup shows to diverse crowds. The places that put focus on happiness are the most pleasant to reside. Denmark was named the happiest country in the world, with surrounding countries like the Netherlands rounding out the top five happy countries. What do these areas have in common? — An emphasis on leisure and frivolity, and very little focus on war and destruction. Scandinavian countries are not known for their artillery. Contrary to the United States, the world leader in violence and weapons budget, they are a people of peace and happiness. The quality of life for the citizens of these lands is at a higher level than the depressed, dark and gloomy vibration so many in this country live by. I choose to see the goodness and light in the majority of people and circumstances, and the results of this spiritual selection are profound.
People who laugh more live longer. A tribe in the Himalayas called, “The Happy Hunzas,” have long been known for their laughter-based conditioning. The average Hunzakut – as they call themselves – live to be well over 100 years of age and typically die in good health and with every tooth still intact and cavity-free. When I say they died healthy, what I mean is that their physically strong and able bodies simply gave out from so many years of living a good, natural life. They rarely ever died from glandular, organ or system failure, as is so common in our modern world.
In the country of Bhutan, its leaders promote a campaign to have their gross national product be happiness, and they too are a very successful nation, thriving in both economic and personal pursuits.
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that disease and illness comes along like an attacker in a dark alley, when in fact we need to look at how we were the ones who put us in that position to begin with. We attract what we prioritize, and this is very much the case with sickness. If we ignore signs that tell us something in our mind/body/soul we need to pay attention to, then an illness of greater significance will result. The polar opposite is true as well. If we look for more ways to enjoy our lives, then good health and wellness will manifest. Personally, I am on a Network News “fast” for 10 years now, and I’ve never been healthier. I pass by “information” that the media outlets bombard us with (to garner better ratings through shock and awe), and replace it with “lighter” fare that causes me to smile. It has led to far more creative output too, due to the artistic spirit being able to flow, unimpeded by the fear, doubt and worry the media and government promote. In this case, ignorance is indeed bliss.
There is a long list of standup comedians who lived long and enriched lives, even performing right up until their death. Milton Berle, George Burns, Bob Hope are three legendary comedians who passed away in their late 90s. Don Rickles, Bob Newhart, Phyillis Diller and Joan Rivers are still going strong after 85, energized by the energy of roomfuls of laughter. Laughter is indeed contagious, and by simply being around it, the benefits are felt. The opposite is true as well, for if you are in a room of angry people, it will be a tall task to rise above that pervasive and invasive negative energy.
Laughter has numerous healing properties. It lowers stress hormones, increases our heart rate, helps us breathe more deeply, and stretches many different muscles in our face and upper body. A positive attitude will not only help us feel better, but it also has a general beneficial effect on our health. Scientists have now begun to prove what everyone else takes for granted.
Even a chuckle changes our condition. It shifts our perception that something is wrong or heart breaking. As Elle Woods from Legally Blond said, “Exercising (or in this case, laughing) gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands!” Yes, it’s a quote from a goofy movie, but the message is clear, concise and simple – the chances of violence or rage diminishes once we choose to laugh. Living a joyful existence is a choice and ANYONE can transform from making that simple decision.
Finding humor and fun in any situation can help you keep your mind and body healthy. Laughter lightens your mood and your burdens. Whether you believe it or not, laughter and humor have some health benefits that could enhance your immune system, give you added energy, and lessen the damage that stress brings into your daily life. When you laugh, your body releases the body’s feel-good chemical, which in turn can give you a mood booster and relieves you from pain in the process. It also improves the oxygen’s flow from your heart and brain. It instigates cell regeneration, keeping the active cells healthy. Since stress causes your healthy cells to die out, laughter can prevent such occurrence. It also relaxes your mind and body, relieving you from tension and pain.
I ask of my family and myself to search for more ways to laugh, discovering new parts of our consciousness. It helps us focus on the more positive things, rather than dwelling on everything that *seems* to go wrong. Laughter is even better when shared with someone else, since it is meant to be contagious. It strengthens our connection with one another. The bond that is formed between individuals who share humor or even a simple smile will help the individuals involved to cope better with emotional or mental stress. It may also be therapeutic for painful conditions such as arthritis or joint inflammation. It opens up new and previously unexplored aspects of our journey and enriches our soul.
Early documents in most of religious scripture speak of laughter being the best medicine. Imagine if it became part of our health care system? A night out at a comedy club will be worth so much to you, all for a 20-dollar co-pay! Yuks can actually save bucks.
Think of all the preserved when we move away from the prescription drugs being pushed down our throats by multi billion dollar drug companies, and toward a wellness program filled with humor and levity. Half of the commercial time for a modern drug is the listing of hazardous side effects. Maybe we need a laughter lobby in Washington??
Humor is just the fertilizer needed to nurture stressed kids and anxious educators as they cope with the cognitive and technological revolution that is shaping 21st century education. Comedy is rarely looked at as an essential part of student growth or as a credible teaching technique. However, a review of neuroscience research indicates that healthy and positive humor can have a significant impact on student learning. The purposeful cultivation of humor practice nourishes both effective teaching and learning!
I am fortunate enough to have been presented with an opportunity to do my own Webcast/Podcast. My intention with this show, debuting Monday March 26th and airing live every Monday from 2 to 3pm PST, will be to encourage our audience to look for alternative ways to find happiness and subsequent wellness in their every day lives.
Of course, there will be plenty of silly ole fun, but at the same time, we will raise the awareness of the power of laughter, offering good medicine that won’t cost a dime. Now, THAT is affordable health care! Just open up and say “Haa Haaa!”