- by Sharon A. Braverman, The Arizona Light, May 1997
Lighten up! We're bombarded by these words everyday. T.V. commercials, magazine ads, even food labels all tout the benefits of eating and being lighter. Let's consider another type of lightening up - one that has nothing to do with calories or fat content - it has to do with our attitude towards life, about living. Let's talk about laughter.
According to a recent article in Psychology Today, "the average six-year-old laughs 300 times a day, the average adult, just 170. Why is that?

No Laughing Matter

Somewhere along the line, we learned not to laugh. That's right. A baby giggles for the first time at about 9 weeks of age. Between 4-6 months, touch and sound make a baby laugh and by 10 months an infant will seek out laughter, usually through games like peek-a-boo. This is a natural part of human development.
But at some point, perhaps when we enter school, we begin to hear these messages, "Don't act so silly," "Wipe that smile off your face," and "Grow up". Remember? Again and again, we hear these phrases throughout our formative years. So what we learn is: be more serious and be more mature. (Bah Humbug!)

No Laughing Allowed

Then we learn about No Laughing Zones. They are everywhere. Places we frequent. Places where we spend many of our waking hours - like work, school, even church. We are expected to keep our nose to the grindstone at work, be mindful at school and be reverent in church. Anything else is, well... inappropriate.
To top it off, Laugh Stoppers lurk within us. Their names are: Embarrassment, Humiliation, Pain, Rejection and Criticism. They tell us to keep our composure, stay in control and for heaven sakes - don't act foolish! We learn to believe Laugh Stoppers and conform to their rules. Yet, they hide the truth.

The Truth and Nothing But It

Laughter is good for us. What other bodily function can give us a healthy workout inside and out, can alleviate stress, relieve pain, and help us gain a better perspective on ourselves and our lives?
Laughter is a tension reliever. Have you ever felt your mounting anger give way to a burst of laughter? It can be an icebreaker at a party. "Did you hear the one about...?" Laughter has the ability to transform us from fearful and discouraged to spirited and encouraged.
Often, we have little control over life's events, but if we learn to see humor in these situations and laugh, we can minimize the impact.
Just one more reason to laugh: Men's Health reported that watching a couple hours of Mary Tyler Moore reruns will actually burn about 100 calories. Ha! (Now that's en-lightening!)

Try It, You'll Like It

Here are a few tips on upping your laugh per day quotient.
1. Figure out what makes you laugh. Laughter is a personal thing, so maybe t.v. sitcoms crack you up, or funny movies. Humorous books or comedy club performances may be more your style. It could be an activity you liked as a kid, like ice skating or the circus. Make a list. Whatever makes you laugh, do it more often.
2. Surround yourself with funny people. Ever notice how humorous folks always have a crowd around them? Laughter is contagious, it puts people in a good mood, encourages interaction and wins affection. Make some funny friends. Whoever makes you laugh, be with them more often.
3. Develop your own sense of humor. Immerse yourself in the world of fun. Take a comedy workshop. Read and learn to tell jokes or humorous stories. Make up games to play. Become a Sir (or Ms.) Laff-A-Lot. However you do it, be funnier more often.
Bringing more laughter into our lives means unlearning what we've learned. Let's act silly again, put more smiles on our faces and be childlike. Let's change No Laughing Zones to Laugh When Appropriate Zones and banish Laugh Stoppers.
So, go ahead and laugh! Lighten up, will you?!



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Broccolo-Philbin, Anne. Current Health magazine. "Laughing & Crying: What a Relief!": December 1995, p. 26-27.
Doskoch, Peter. Psychology Today magazine. "Happily Ever Laughter": July/August 1996, p. 33-35.
Finnerty, Amy. American Health magazine. "Send in the Clowns": September 1995, p. 68-69, 105.
Granick, Samuel. USA Today magazine. "The Therapeutic Value of Laughter": September 1995, p. 72-74.
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Kluger, Jeffrey. Discover magazine. "Survival of the Funniest": Janurary 1994, p.16.
Murphey, P. Myatt. Men's Health magazine. "100 Ways to Burn 100 Calories": December 1995, p. 114-117.
Stansbury, Herb. Newsweek magazine. "Laugh!!! Your Health May Depend On It": June 6, 1994, p. A24.