Why Feeling Tickled Is Good For Us
The high that we gain when we laugh until we hold our sides, roll about on the floor and feel the tears streaming down our cheeks is addicting. So, what protects us from such loosey-goosey, nonsensical fun? Only our own serious, controlled approach to life, from sex to the family vacation.
Human beings are not born serious. We begin life fully equipped with an innate playfulness and the ability to laugh freely. Sadly, most of us curb our playfulness and laughter as a sacrifice to the serious business of adulthood. In order to keep laughing, we need to be in a partial state of playfulness, either consciously or unconsciously. Laughter therapy is one way to help us ease our adult seriousness and retrieve that lost sensation of play.
Laughter is not only fun; it is also good for us. At last, something good for us that is also enjoyable. There is no need for yucky-tasting diet concoctions, profuse sweating in concentrated exercise or tough changes for this particular pursuit of health. All that’s required is pure, unrestrained, old-fashioned laughter.
Laughter heals the body and eases painful emotions like anger and fear. It helps us cope with daily survival in a pleasant and effective way. Contrary to common perceptions, in my 20 years as a laughter therapist I have found that laughter is born of tension, stress and pain, so most people need not worry about being able to laugh. Stress has been called the number one health problem today; we’ve all got it.
Laughter therapy is about learning to laugh freely again at the many things we deal with that aren’t otherwise funny. Children will play with almost anything except direct pain. Adults were intended to do the same. When we can play with our pain, we laugh. When we laugh, we shift our perspective and problems shrink to a manageable size. We don’t diminish their importance, but we feel less overwhelmed.
Laughter is warm, bonding and contagious. It connects with those we love and with our fellow human beings. We need to feel good. We need to feel connected. We need to feel safe. We need to laugh more.
Anyone can join the laughter movement. All it takes is a willingness to risk some loss of control. The timid may start with a few shy giggles. The courageous may jump in with deep belly laughs. A sense of humor is not required. There’s more than enough stress to go around, and absurdity abounds in our daily lives. All we have to do is believe, let go and clap our hands, and laughter will live again. So will we. When we laugh, we feel deeply, which allows us to live fully.
We can encourage everyday laughter at home by being playful with our families. Wear a clown nose when putting children to bed. Break up chores by indulging in a pillow fight. Ease conflict by saying something light and unexpected. Let hand puppets help with family communication or say it with a humorous hat. Life at home doesn’t have to be serious; it’s far too important for that.
We can slip laughter into the workplace with a few lighthearted windup toys. Play with frustrations by writing them on shoe soles and walking on them. Wear a temporary tattoo that expresses our mood for the day. No one need see it. Find ways to celebrate stress; we might as well enjoy it. We can practice laughing, so that we can laugh when we need it most.
Mother Nature laughs. She created people playful and funny. She also created laughter. Why, in pursuit of serious things, have we short-circuited both our play and our laughter? In our frenzy to succeed and to have it all, we have shortened everything. We have fast food, fast banking, fast fun, fast shopping, even fast sex. Today, life is a longer process on a shorter schedule, and for that, we need lots of laughter.
Our natural laughter is neither fast-paced nor high-tech. It’s not expensive and it can’t be bought. Others can’t do it for us. All of us can do it ourselves, however, because we’re born with it, and it’s our right to reap all its benefits. On the off chance that we occasionally find ourselves headed off to “smell the roses” from a drive-in window, at least we can laugh at our own folly.
Enda Junkins, known as “The Laughing Psychotherapist,” is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. For information on her keynote talks, seminars and workshops, visit www.LaughterTherapy.com
“Social psychology research shows that children laugh, on average, 150 times a day; adults, only six times a day. During an average day, a child will smile 400 times; an adult no more than 15 times.”
~ Robert Holden, Ph.D., founder of The Happiness Project, in Living Wonderfully
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