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Why It Pays To Laugh When You Have Pain

  • Speed Peek (Why You Want to Laugh; A Few Facts About Laughter)
  • Understand More (Make Laughter Happen; Practical Guidance; Gratitude)
  • Anti-Challenge Reframing© (Instructions for Laughing)
  • Story About Featured Photograph (Send in the Clowns)

Speed Peek

How can I boldly state it pays to laugh and smile when you have physical or mental pain? Because I am relaying my personal experience; living with chronic physical pain for 5 years, while purposefully employing laughter as a means of relief.  I want to tell you, the results have been impressive!
Laughing to relieve stress and pain is by no means a new concept.  Most everyone has heard the phrase laughter is the best medicine; but do these words light a fire under you? Are you motivated to add some chuckling to your life? Or are you accustomed to hearing laughter cures what ails you, and the thought gets dismissed to the “yeah, that’s a good idea” pile?

If you are in the last category, I get it. Most of us do not tend to get serious about changing things until we feel the repercussions of inaction.

However, you should know:  If you are not laughing multiple times a day, you are not laughing enough. It’s worth taking a fresh look at practical ways you can add laughter to your life, and be reminded of why laughter makes you feel better.
No matter what your current situation is, and especially if you are experience any physical/mental pain or discomfort, you need to make this change, now.

WHY IT PAYS TO LAUGH – The Condensed Version

  1. Physical Pain Relief: Endorphins released with laughter (YAY!)
    My personal results are my proof; I may not have believed the degree to which this was possible had I not experienced it. You can read more in citation [1] on this subject.
  2. Mental Health Benefits:
    -A break from distressing emotions; you literally cannot feel angry, anxious or sad at the same split second you are laughing
    (See Understand More about the illusion of multi-tasking)
    -Helps regulate your mood, social behavior, resilience, and memory
  3. Other Physical Benefits:
    -Reduces harmful effects of stress [2]
    -Muscle relaxation
    -Increased lung capacity
    -Strengthens abdominal muscles
    -Helps regulate appetite, digestion, blood pressure, heart rate, sleep, and sexual desire and function
  4. Laughter and General Positivity: 
    -Just try and think of a positive person you enjoy being around who doesn’t laugh or smile. Even if it’s a weak smile when times are tough, it’s there.
  5. Side-note on Smiling:
    -Smiling goes hand in hand with laughing; a happy, smiling face is seen as an attractive face, according to an article in The Journal of Experimental PsychologyGeneral® [3]
    -Not to mention, it’s contagious! We attract what we put out.  You will find more people around you who enjoy laughing!  

[1] Paul McGhee, PhD M Nurses Learning Course; Health and Humor  (laughterremedy.com)
https://www.nurseslearning.com/courses/nrp/nrpcx-w0009/html/body.humor.page2.htm [Link opens Page 2, continue reading to Page 3]
[2] Citation  Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):38-45 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/12652882/?i=6&from=/15853164/related
[3] Citation J Exp Psychol Gen. 2011 Nov;140(4):637-59. doi: 10.1037/a0024060J https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21744984/?i=6&from=/25642724/related

A FEW BASICS to know about laughter:

  • Laughter is multiplied by an average of 30 times when laughing with one or more people, versus alone.
  • Children laugh an average of 300 times per day, as compared to adults laughing under 20 times per day, according to multiple studies. (You will see the relevance of this later in this article)
  • The measure of “a laugh” has been described as a succession of notes or syllables (some vocalized, some suppressed) between inhaled breaths. http://emotionresearcher.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/BachorowskiSmskOwren01-1.pdf
  • The majority of spontaneous laughter does not necessarily come from an intentionally comical source, but rather from mundane interaction with others, as a means to relate and bond.  I have to agree based on my interactions; laughter and smiling are ways I communicate support, friendship, understanding and kindness. This point is made by many sources, including Robert Provine, with over 30 years research.
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/30329/lab-worlds-leading-laugh-scientist
  • Learning not to take yourself too seriously, laughing at your own mistakes, not only provides ever-ready laughing material, but promotes a healthy sense of self; you are not odd, everyone is fallible.

There are several different types of laughter and ways laughter can be initiated.  This article looks at 2 of the following 3 types of laughter:

3 Types of Laughter:

  1. Spontaneous Laughter:  Most beneficial
    (Spontaneous laughter is a behavioral expression that ties to emotion.  The beneficial type of spontaneous laughter talked about in this article is a result of the emotion happiness. Researchers have not concluded “exactly” how emotion turns into laughter.  What they have found:  Several brain pathways interact when spontaneous laughter occurs.  Brain regions responsible for decision making and behavior control are inhibited, and emotional circuitry connection is made between the regions responsible for experiencing and expressing emotions.)
  2. Simulated Laughter: Next to best 
    (Simulated laughter is when the physical movements of laughter are purposefully imitated. Your body does not discern what type laughter you are experiencing, and responds. You should keep in mind though, the levels of hormones, etc. produced are not the highest with simulated laughter.)
  3. Stimulated Laughter: 
    Stimulated laughter is the least effective of these 3 in producing the benefits listed below
    (Example: Contact induced; e.g. when you are tickled)
“Silly” = Fun = Good Health

You may want to invest in a little outside reading. On subjects that concern my well being, I find the more I understand different points of view, the better equipped I am for decisions in my own personal circumstances. The link to supplemental nursing courses, in the citation link below, falls into this category.  This was easy to read, and provided perspective from a caregiver’s point of view. I found good detail that was interesting and helpful on the physical benefits of laughter.
[Link opens Page 2, continue reading to Page 3]
https://www.nurseslearning.com/courses/nrp/nrpcx-w0009/html/body.humor.page2.htm

CONTINUE READING BELOW
for how to increase laughter in your life,
and how you can move aside emotions
that slow you down.

UNDERSTAND MORE

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO MAKE LAUGHTER HAPPEN

HOW TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR EFFECTIVE SPONTANEOUS LAUGHTER
There is a reality that helps me stay on-task once I get into happy/grateful/laughing mode: Recognizing that every thought and action in life has its own moment. We literally cannot do two things at the same time. “Multitasking” is a fable.  In reality, the closest thing we can manage to multitasking is switching quickly from one thing to another
The reason it is important to recognize this:  It reminds me that I have choices.  Whether I choose taking measures to leave a negative emotion, or stay in a positive one, I am where the choice starts in determining which “one” I will experience.

[If you have any difficulty grasping the fact of experiencing only one emotion at a time, take a moment, right now, and test it with this simile: Try to spell a word and add 2+2 simultaneously.
You may get it down to fractions of a second, but these two actions will not take place at the very same moment in time.]  

-Holley, 2007

Laughter, smiling, and a general feeling of well-being are associated with one emotion:  Happiness.
If happiness is not where your head and heart are, you need to move whatever emotion is blocking you. 

WHAT IF YOU JUST AREN’T IN THE MOOD TO LAUGH? Employing Gratitude

If laughter does not come easily to you, or you want to get more out of half-heart chuckles, one way is to get happiness in the emotional driver’s seat.  The quickest way I’ve found to clear the way for happiness, is putting into practice a very common word that you have probably heard a Million times:  “Gratitude”.
When you are mindful (fully aware) of being grateful, the ability to laugh and smile occurs easily.
THE BIG QUESTION IS:  

Do you really understand that the act of being grateful is not a list of “things” that you rattle off about what’s going right for you?
Gratitude is a feeling you are experiencing in a particular moment; the list you make is of the things that initiate this feeling.

Holley’s Journals, 2001

A way to identify this feeling is by noticing the physical sensation.  This sensation is very similar to what happiness in general feels like.  I would describe it as a warmth and lighter-weight in the chest cavity.  Picture in your mind:

A curtain opens in a dark room, a stream of perfect sunlight filling all the shadowed corners; the cold air changing from chilly to comfortable warmth.  The difference is so great that I am amazed; I am in awe of how good it feels.
This is the feeling of gratitude I experience.

-Holley’s Journals, 2001

I usually experience this sensation when receiving or extending a kindness or a need being filled.
When I become fully focused and aware of a benefit, whether new, already in-place, seems I got lucky, or I know there was an intentional act of kindness:  I feel “gratitude“.  It does not matter if I am the giver or receiver; this light, warm feeling occurs and is unmistakable.

This sensation of gratitude is stronger than negative emotions, and does a good job of making room for happiness and genuine spontaneous laughter to step in.

Is it always easy to list what I’m grateful for?

To be perfectly honest, no, it’s not.  When I’m in my usual frame of mind, I can list a novel’s worth of gratitude.  But, ask me in the middle of adjusting to a difficult emotion, or stress run riot, and I find it hard to focus on anything.  During these hard times, I’m likely to spit out a quick: “I have income, my car runs, and I found the right color of nail polish I’ve been looking for”. These are empty words; not words attached to a feeling.
In order for gratitude to help my ability to laugh, I have to bring the “sensation” to mind.

For the record, it is not uncommon to cry when feeling deep gratitude. This is a perfectly normal, biological response.  The way it happens:  Your emotions interact with the part of your brain that deals with emotions (hypothalamus).  The hypothalamus is hardwired into your automatic nervous system.  This is a biological fact; we have no control over this.  With most, the trigger of emotion causes the automatic nervous system to activate a neurotransmitter, which stimulates tear production. 

Adding laughter to life takes practice, just like anything else in life that turns into habit.

It almost always sounds easy to add new things to your life when you read about them, but it can be a challenge when you actually try to incorporate a ‘new way of seeing’ into your life.  After all, the “way you use to do things” does not magically disappear; you will need to get rid of the old to make room for the new, and this will take time.  You can begin by adding small habits; removing what stands in your way of acting on them. To kick-start your practical application of new stuff, here are a few bullet point things you can try, treating them as “must do” for getting in the frame of mind for laughter.  I have found the “must do” approach works, because when I fail to do a “must do”, it shows me what needs to move out of my way, for me to progress.
You will also notice mindfulness (in part, paying close attention to the moment and your surroundings) is described below. Mindfulness is the gateway to gratitude, and a springboard for curiosity, which leads to wonder, leading to awe: All essential to gratitude and playfulness.

INDEX CARD GUIDE – LAUGHING
The scenario below is a practical walk-through example of what reality looks like sometimes. The schedule you are accustomed to will need some adjustment to make room for the new “must-do”. New routine habits will bring change to your perspective and start motivating you. 

SCENARIO:  The day you make the decision to add laughter is awesome.  It’s a Tuesday morning and you’re ready; bring on the LOL’s!  You are full of ideas:  “Hmm? Maybe see a comedy movie with a friend Friday?  Spend an hour on-line with people that always make me chuckle and some blooper out-takes?  Try that laughing class on Wednesday nights? I hope I see something ironic on the way to work, that always makes me chuckle!  Oh! I’ve got to get ready for work, running late!”

You start scurrying to get ready for work (snickering to yourself about how it seems the rest of the world did not get your memo; announcing you were ready to have fun and laugh.)  You’ve kept an eye on the clock, leaving the same time you always do, and your day begins progressing in the same order it always does; no big surprise that you clip right along in your normal, habitual routine.  Several days have passed, near carbon copies of each other. There’s been no time for thinking about how to squeeze in extra laughter or making change.  How can you make change if you don’t have time to think about it?  Suddenly it’s Friday; what happened to your laughing time!?  Your same old packed schedule has led you through the week, and you responded to it out of habit.  What went wrong?  Could you possibly do something different?

What you overlooked!

The reality is, the world doesn’t stop spinning because you decided to change. Yes, you had a few laughs at lunch with the waiter and your friend at the office during the week, but nothing else seemed was experienced differently.
HERE ARE 4 THINGS YOU COULD DO ABOUT IT RIGHT AWAY:

1.Within the first hour of waking:  Take 5 minutes… 2 minutes… 30 seconds… Just take “some time to laugh or silly-play!
You have not learned to make 15 minutes for yourself in the morning for simulated laughing, or being silly enough to make yourself laugh.  So, until you can make those 15 minutes a habit, take whatever time you can manage.  If you get in the habit of doing “something”, you will make more and more time, because it will be on your mind, every day… at least for 30 seconds. If you find simulated laughing not resonating at first, try a quick daily “T-Rex” walk to the kitchen and back (see T-Rex silly play and a link for solo laughing exercises in Anti-Challenge)

2.Pay attention – to everything
(Use mindfulness; it is the small things that bring wonder the majority of the time.  Example: When you get to work, notice the raindrops on your windshield; they remind you of the stars in the sky. Let your mind drift to any wonderment you feel about the vastness of the Universe.  When you step out of your car, look down. A very small flower on a weed, growing at the edge of the grass.  Look at it; acknowledge it is there for a minute.  Realize it is living in its own tiny little reality, just like you are, in comparison to the Universe.  The petals are so small and delicate, so beautiful.  You too are beautiful and unique. Step over the flower and go to work.

[Rain on windshield: A Universe of stars –
 Tiny World: In the grass beneath your feet]

3.Spend 10 minutes of your lunchtime, or on your way home, to explore.  Looking for “small things”, on the ground, in trees, etc. is an easy place to start.

4.Add 10 minutes extra:  Book yourself an empty 10 min between things (you usually leave at 8am to get to work by 8:25am. New deadline out door 7:50am) You are going to need that time to notice the raindrop stars on your windshield, and gaze at that teeny, tiny weed flower.

ANTI-CHALLENGE REFRAMING

GOALS and INSTRUCTIONS:
Read Anti-Challenge and watch video to better understand what simulated laughing is and the options available.
– Try group or solo simulated laughing!

Why bother with Simulated Laughing and “Playing”?

Think about it, at one time or another, most ever adult has reminisced about the carefree feeling of childhood, “when life was simpler”.  Other than extreme cases, we can all pull up a memory of what it felt like to “play”; laughter came easy and it was plain old fun.
I’ve got news for you: You are not doomed to only reliving memories of this type of happiness.  It is available to you, without dodging important adult responsibilities, and you are the only one standing in your way of experiencing it.  You can embrace your silly, either alone, or with others; the rewards will amaze you.

How do you go about “Simulated Laughing”?

If this is your first introduction to simulated laughing, start with the understanding that it revolves around some form of playfulness.  No complicated definition, I literally mean “playing”; what kids do on a regular basis.  If you’ve already complicated this with grownup thoughts, picture what you might typically see when looking at a playground where children are actively engaged in play.  They chase each other, make faces, pretend with invisible props and make up rules for games; they laugh loudly, and they smile big.

Adults literally playing like little kids, pretending to laugh together for the sake of health benefits has been around for a while.
Since the organization of Laughing Yoga in 1995, many laughing clubs and yoga classes have formed.  And though people may start with an initial goal of fake-laughing, it isn’t hard to imagine how a group of adults, looking each other in the eye, while willingly flapping their arms like birds, can result in spontaneous, real laughter.  Keep in mind with any of these suggestions that the more earnestly engage in the acting, the better your results. There is a reason you are doing this in the first place, to feel better!

Watch this less than 4 minute YouTube video, “Laughter yoga: laughing away the stress” for a good look at simulated laughing in a group setting.  I actually found 3 opportunities in my town.  Google “Laughter Yoga”, or inquire with your local Chamber of Commerce for programs available in your area.

There are also simulated laughing exercises you can do alone.  A good link, with written instruction for solo simulated laughter (no excuse not to do this one!), is Laughter Yoga Alone, with Dr. Kataria, the founder of original Laughter Yoga. https://laughteryoga.org/laughter-yoga-alone/

Lastly, 3 favorite “silly things” I employ to get laughter rolling.
Some are almost slap-stick, some are things purposefully done in public, even though they take me out of my comfort zone. The laugh shared with a stranger, or chuckle out loud to myself, is a payoff I don’t want to miss!

1 At the grocery, or any store: This simple phrase brings huge smiles and laughter 9 times out of 10. Discovered by accident, it has become a source of joy more times than I can count.
When needing to reach something high on a shelf (or low, for those of you vertically gifted), find a nearby stranger and inquire:
Excuse me, may I borrow your height?”

2 After a casual interaction with someone assisting you on the phone, at a cash register, or a drive through, conclude your business with a complimentary close that Disney phone operators used during a champagne 15 years ago:  In your best imitation of a Magic Kingdom Happy Voice, end your interaction with, “Have a Magical Day!”  Yes, gentlemen, this applies to you as well.  I know it can be done, as a dear friend of mine, as manly as they come, has enjoyed the fun and laughter this type interaction evokes

“Rawr!” LOL

3 The T-Rex:  (I’m laughing just thinking of this, Hahaha!)
Out of the blue, put on your T-Rex by holding bent elbows close to your sides; placing hands near armpits.  Take slow, lunging, larger steps, and looking side to side, let loose a little “Rawr!”.  There is something very playful and comical about this movement that tickles my funny bone every time, even when alone. 

Life with Holley
“Anti-challenge Reframing © 2018” was created from an idea, and partial
terminology, derived from a comment made on my June 25, 2018 Instagram
spoof-post: “International Anti-Selfie Day”.  Thank you to Vaughan
(@vaughan.knight  Instagram) for your insightful, witty words: “You could offer
a ‘reframing’ service; new opportunities from old!  Start a new
anti-challenge whenever life doesn’t live up to expectation. Therein lies
something not to be found in the successful events.

STORY ABOUT THE FEATURED PHOTOGRAPH

SEND IN THE CLOWNS
Ha! I knew these goofing around pictures would come in handy, someday. Okay, no, I really did not know they would, but I’m very glad I held onto them!
The backstory on how I ended up with a laughing series of selfies really does go hand-in hand with this article.  They were the product of not taking myself too serious; in other words, the ability to laugh at myself.

September 14, 2018, I was shooting a stunning sunset from a 5th floor roof, when the thought occurred to me: The brilliantly colored sky might make a good backdrop for a new Instagram bio picture.  Oh my, I was right; the sun was positioned perfectly to light my hair with a glow!
Now, I’m not a big selfie taker, but let me tell you, there was magic in the air, and I did not resist the urge for playfulness to kick in!  What was meant to be a few simple frames of smiling, morphed into a full-on “self-modeling shoot” (lol).  Even had a dialogue going in my head, coaxing myself as a photographer might, “Yes, beautiful- turn a little, let’s see a pout – now a serious look, that’s it – now laugh like you haven’t a care in the world!”.

It was about that time I remembered there were security cameras on the roof, and security guards in a booth on the 1st level monitoring them.

At that very moment, real, spontaneous laughs were captured! The sudden realization that I most likely was not privately hamming it up, truly made me laugh!!   Why not laugh? I would find it comical if I watched the situation unfold in a comedy. Just because I happened to be part of the show, made it none the less laughter-worthy.

I highly value the learned behavior of being able to laugh at my own accidental faux pas, or what might be considered embarrassing moments; let’s face it, in one form or another, these moments happen to us all.  A consistent truth I keep handy to go along with embarrassing moments:  Life goes on. 
In this case, there was no harm done; save a little ruffling of how I prefer to be viewed in public.

To my surprise, the most memorable part of the evening was not the actual embarrassing act, but rather thinking about it on the way home. Having recalled I did not have the market cornered on being silly or embarrassed, it sunk in a bit further: This fallibility I had in common with all of humanity, meant I was part of an enormous family; connected simply by being alive and experiencing living. These thoughts created the stir of gratitude, a ‘joy’ in being the same.

It was quite the bonus to end up with this gratitude washing over me; when all I had intended was to shoot the sunset. The warm feeling of gratitude: Not a bad trade for a little thought, play and laughter.

September 14, 2018
iPhone X
Multiple App Filters
Composed on PhotoGrid

In loving memory of
the most beautiful laugh,
the first laugh I heard.
~ Happy Birthday Mom~

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