Friday, January 24, 2014

Global Belly Laugh Day

How did I miss this before? I love a good belly laugh, and now there is a day to celebrate it. What makes you laugh? Stand up comics? Television comedies? Milton Berle in a dress? Slapstick? Once when I was in college, my roommate and I staged a fake altercation in the school cafeteria which resulted in him throwing a whole cream pie in my face. We got laughs, howls, and applause from our fellow student diners. One of my classmates told me later he really appreciated that "break from the tensions of schoolwork" and that he had not laughed in about a year until that night. I responded, "Oh, No! You need to laugh every day!" Even better than slapstick, is the telling of funny stories; better than funny stories is a quick wit to see the humor in everyday real life situations. Hopefully, you have at least one friend who can scope out the humor in the room.  

Sometimes You Just Have to Be There  

 You can even help to create the humor of the moment when the situation arises. When I was a seminary student, I was a member of the First Baptist Church of Novato, California. One Sunday night, the music minister announced that it was hymn request night. Instead of having a planned set of hymns, they would let us request our favorite hymn. All we had to do was to find the hymn number and raise our had to request the hymn to be sung. I was in the choir that night. I had a hymn request, and was raising my hand from the back of the choir in the tenor section. Ed Giddens, the music minister was taking requests from the congregation but not noticing me in the choir seated behind him. With each hymn request, I was getting a little more physical in my hand raising until it was two hands waving while standing. The congregation was beginning to chuckle, seeing my hand waiving that Ed was not seeing. I was doing some good-natured shoulder shrugging and eyebrow raising, while more people were stifling their chuckles. Finally, I decided to be a bit more dramatic. I walked down from the choir loft and took a seat on the front pew, directly in front of the Ed. Now things were getting a bit unsettled for a church service. One did not typically change seats after the service began, and one certainly did not leave the choir loft to go to a pew. The situation was getting humorous enough, but Ed, having a great sense of humor himself, managed to take the humor to another level. "We have time for one more hymn," Ed announced. (I was already raising my hand). Then he said, "But we've taken so many requests from the congregation, I think we need to go to the choir for the last request." He turned around to look toward the choir as the congregation erupted in laughter and I was looking around with a shocked and dejected expression. All was resolved when he turned back around to look at me and say, "Oh, did you have a hymn request, Charlie?" People remembered that service longer that the typical hymn request service.

Make Laughter a Priority Today

One of my favorite sure-fire laughter spots on television these days is Modern Family created by Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Levitan. You can probably catch an episode somewhere on cable TV tonight. The Big Bang Theory is another good place for laughs on TV. However you manage it, be sure to get some belly laughs today.

Here are some benefits of laughter from the Global Laughter Day webpage: 

A Good Hearty Laugh
  • Even looking forward to having a good laugh can boost your immune system and reduce stress. University of California-Irvine study shows that even knowing you will be involved in a positive humorous event days in advance reduces levels of stress hormones in the blood and increases levels of chemicals known to aid relaxation.
  • Laughter appears to cause the tissue that forms the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, to dilate or expand in order to increase blood flow.
  • Playful laughing fuels positive energy, creativity and connection.
  • Boosts immune functions.
  • Increase's pain tolerance.
  • Exercises facial, abdominal and chest muscles.
  • Oxygenates the blood.
  • Improves brain functioning.
    We are more alert, creative, we think better after a laugh.
  • Laughing changes our mood. Boosts Positive Emotions.
  • Laughing mixed together with the positive emotions of humor,
    and happiness lowers the stress hormones, corticosteroids and epinephrine. The release of growth hormone and endorphins plays a role in lowering the stress hormones.
A Sense of Humor
  • A sense of humor fuels positive energy, connection and creativity.
  • Use humor during challenging times to transform situations.
  • Use humor to arouse curiosity and engage in divergent or creative thinking. 
  • "'Humor in children has been correlated with higher intelligence, creativity, sociability, empathy, self-esteem, and problem solving." (Louis Franzini, Ph.D., author of Kids Who Laugh: How to Develop Your Child’s Sense of Humor)
  • "Humor is a powerful force that can nourish children's growth, development, health, and sense of well-being." (Amelia J. Klein, editor Humor in Children's Lives: A Guidebook for Practitioners)

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And Now a Word from the Professionals

Here is a conversation with two of the masters of comedy from Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.


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