What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. – Yiddish proverb
According to Ann Pardo, Director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch in Tucson –
and a very funny lady – the reasons are endless.
To begin with, there are demonstrable physical benefits.
“A good belly laugh immediately recalibrates the body’s CO2/oxygen balance, strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, massages the heart and other internal organs and stimulates the cardiovascular system,” says Ann.
The benefits of a laugh-filled life reach much further, of course. A person who sees humor in the absurdity of the world, and who is ready to laugh at his or her own reactivity and mistakes, has a way to reroute anger, reframe fear, and build an escape hatch from stress.
“When I give presentations on laughter, though,” says Ann, “I’m always careful to emphasize that sarcasm is never humor. We are not talking here about biting wit that hurts – we’re talking about good-hearted, generous humor.
“One observation I like is that the best sort of humor is when you wake up and smile because the sun has risen. Genuine humor has a strong component of positive acceptance of the way things are, of letting the bad things roll off you.”
Asian societies widely revere an embodiment of the power of laughter – the Laughing Buddha, known as Budai in China and Hotei in Japan. The fat, broadly smiling Zen monk is appreciated for embodying the principles of tolerance, contentment and lightness of spirit, thus helping bring heaven to earth.
“In the West, we tend to think of holy people as being serious and solemn, but there’s nothing incompatible about enlightenment and a sparkling sense of humor. Anyone who’s ever heard the Dalai Lama speak knows that the spirit of laughter – of self-mockery and even of mischief – is very much alive in him,” says Ann.
“I strongly suggest to guests that they try to laugh from their bellies at least once a day, which requires connecting each day to things that make you laugh.” Among her suggestions:
- Read the comics
- Watch comedies – it doesn’t matter whether they’re sophisticated or dopey, as long as they make you laugh
- Listen when someone tells a joke, and, if you like it, retell it
- Take the time to read the funny emails that your friends circulate
- Visit comedy sites online
- Relish the antics of your pets
- Spend time with small children, who, like animals, are effortlessly funny
Another good strategy is to deliberately seek out the people you know who make you laugh, individuals who see the funny side of things.
“Just a quick exchange with someone who makes you smile can be a healing and refreshing break in the day.”
Joke of the Day:
A man wants to get his dog into a variety show, so he grabs the reluctant theater manager for a quick audition.
“This is a talking dog,” he explains.
“Yeah? Well, show me,” the manager says.
“Okay,” the man says to the dog, “What do you call the thing on top of a house?”
“Roof,” says the dog.
“Right. Now, what’s the opposite of ‘smooth’?”
“Rough,” says the dog.
“Correct again! Now, who’s the greatest baseball player of all time?”
“Ruth,” says the dog.
“Just what I thought,” says the manager. “That dog is just barking.” He walks off in disgust.
The dog turns anxiously to the man and asks, “Should I have said ‘DiMaggio’?”