It’s a new year. Get ready to wear that Fitbit, join a yoga class, eat a healthy diet and laugh yourself silly.
That’s right, more medical research is touting that laughter is, indeed, the best medicine and contributes to a healthier lifestyle. It may not be a cure-all but some studies have found that a good chuckle relieves stress and tension and even stimulates organs with the intake of oxygen-rich air that can benefit the heart, lungs and muscles.
According to the website, HelpGuide.org, and even the mayoclinic.org, laughter can enhance our immune system, connection with people and our overall mood. Medical data includes words like endorphins (hormones that make you feel good), neuropeptides (molecules that help fight stress) and endothelium (cells that line blood vessels) — that when stimulated by a good laugh — contribute to our well-being.
Did you know that one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories, enough to lose three or four pounds a year? Maybe it’s like watching paint dry, but If you’re not in a hurry, that’s one way to lose weight.
Studies aside, most of us know a chortle makes us feel downright good and it can be a diffuser whenever we’re angry, tense, depressed or suffering from a headache.
That may be easy for some to say, but for many — in various life-burdening circumstances — it can be difficult to find something to laugh about. And there are those who are more pragmatic in their thoughts and disposition.
The HelpGuide website, however, suggests numerous ways to grab a giggle such as hanging around with fun, light-spirited people, gravitating toward others’ laughter, watching a funny movie, smiling, and don’t (rather do laugh) but there are laughter yoga classes. (I didn’t know they existed but there are thousands worldwide and hundreds of classes in the United States.)
Playing with children is another way to obtain a chuckle. Can anyone resist a child’s laughter? Don’t you love the videos of babies whose deep, breathless gurgles spring like a fountain from their tiny mouths when their parents make a funny face? Because kids say the funniest things, spend some time with them and come away chuckling, as I often did as a volunteer in an elementary school.
Another suggestion is learning not to take ourselves too seriously and embracing our imperfections —an idea that gets lost too often in our need to portray ourselves as being as perfect as possible. (Check out Facebook posts.) So, on that note, and in my resolve for 2020 to live a healthy lifestyle, I’ll share with you an incident that happened to me during the hurried, harried month of December that, hopefully, will cause you to smile.
My husband, Paul, and I teamed up in preparation for the holidays. He addressed the Christmas cards and I wrote the notes. At last, after several hours of writing and stuffing envelopes, we were off to the post office to mail the thick bundle that I had secured with a rubber band. As Paul drove to the outdoor mailbox, he suggested that I remove the rubber band with the intention of easier access through the slot. So, in teamwork fashion, I handed him several cards at a time and he deposited them. When I gave him the last ten or more cards, I was horrified to notice the flaps of the envelopes were unsealed.
“How can this be?”, I said, accusingly. “I thought you sealed them.”
“I thought YOU sealed them,” Paul said, as accusingly.
And so began the season’s saga.
“Forget it,” he said. “Too late now; I’m going home.”
I was not going to forget it. After all, we had spent too many hours addressing and writing notes to throw that time away. Besides, spending $55 in postage was also a consideration. I went home with him and left again in my car, returning to the post office. While standing in line, I tried to hide my embarrassment, hoping to be helped by a familiar clerk who wasn’t too overworked.
Of course, when my turn eventually came, an unfamiliar new clerk waited on me with his polite but serious demeanor and I blurted out, “I’ve got a problem.”
After some instruction from another clerk, the person who waited on me retrieved two carts and rolled them to the outside mailbox with me trailing behind, apologizing all the way. Once there, he opened the door to the back of the box and an avalanche of mail (mostly Christmas cards) came tumbling out. Since the mailbox is a lot shorter than you would think, we were forced on our knees to go through all of that mail. And the whole time, I was thinking how there would have been no problem had I kept the rubber band on the cards. (It was Paul’s fault.)
“Is this yours?” the clerk kept asking as we dove into the pile that kept growing, thanks to a continuous line of drivers who were dumping their Christmas cards into the mailbox. To add to the “merriment” they kept wishing us a “Merry Christmas” as we doggedly continued to search through the piles. And the flood of mail kept pouring in as quickly as we were frantically trying to get my cards out.
Ultimately, after about a half-hour or more, I decided — for the sake of the postal clerk — enough was enough. Still apologizing, I returned to the post office and proceeded to lick some 65 retrieved envelopes. (I wasn’t about to ask for a sponge.) Besides, I had to refrain from laughing out loud about the absurdity of it all, but I didn’t know that (according to more studies) there’s a chance the more you laugh, the longer you’ll live.
Dolly Merritt writes from Westminster. Her Prime column appears on the third Sunday of the month.