Jun 1, 2011

Say Cheese!

Smile laugh photo
Say Cheese! by Boy_Wonder

This is habit #6 of our 30 day trial program for the month of  June.

Are you reading this with a straight face? Don't you know that
"A smile is the shortest distance between people."? ~Victor Borge

If a baby can smile living off of only breast milk and a mother’s love, you can smile too (;

Furthermore, everyone likes the sight of a genuine smile.  Think about how you feel when a complete stranger looks into your eyes and smiles.  Suddenly they don’t seem like a stranger anymore, do they?

For hundreds of years, it has been acknowledged that "Laughter is the best Medicine". Breakthrough scientific research is shedding new light on the physiological beneficial effects of humor on health. Laughter can come in handy, whether it’s for dealing with an illness, the pressures of daily living, stress, coping at work, laughter can dramatically change the quality and outlook of our lives.

And laughing makes us feel good for a reason. The physiological effects on our body do some pretty amazing stunts. Here are some examples:

1. Manage your hormones
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline, dopamine and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and neurotransmitters. Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the efficiency of T-cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.

2. An internal exercise
A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart. Laughing 100 times is the equivalent to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike.

3. Longer Life
According to some recent research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, elderly optimistic people, those who expected good things to happen (rather than bad things), were less likely to die than pessimists.

In fact, among the 65-85 year-old study participants, those who were most optimistic were 55 percent less likely to die from all causes than the most pessimistic people. What’s more, after researchers adjusted the results for age, smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity and other measures of health, the optimists were 71 percent less likely to die than the pessimists!
"You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing."
~Michael Pritchard
4. Fight illness
People who are optimistic have stronger immune systems and are actually able to fight off illness better than pessimists.

The research is very clear -it's not some social science generalization- there is a link between optimistic attitudes and good health. And it has been measured in a variety of ways. Overall, scientists have found that optimistic people are healthier. Their biological makeup is different and they have a more robust immune system.

5. Social benefits
Laughter is contagious, so if you bring more laughter into your life, you can most likely help others around you laugh more. By elevating the mood of those around you, you can diminish their stress levels, and possibly improve the quality of social interaction you experience with them, reducing your stress level even more! (Check out 88 Ways to Make a Stranger Smile)

What’s even better is that the more you smile, the more others will too. Seeing a smile creates what is termed as a "halo effect", helping us to remember other happy events more vividly, feel more optimistic, more positive and more motivated.

6. Change your perspective
Researchers found that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a "threat" or a "challenge". Humor can give us a more light-hearted perspective and help us view events as "challenges", thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
"When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it's time for others to laugh at him."
~Thomas Szasz
7. Positive frame of mind
Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress and negative emotions to them alongside other "mere distractions". It will make you cheerful and put you in a positive frame of mind.

8. Physical release
Have you ever felt like you had to laugh or you’d cry? Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.

9. It feels like eating 2000 chocolate bars
That’s right! According to The British Dental Health Foundation, a smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2000 chocolate bars. The results were found after scientists measured brain and heart activity in volunteers as they were shown pictures of smiling people and given money and chocolate.

People have long been drawing attention to the fact that smiling increases happiness both in yourself and those around you, so it is good to receive the backing of this scientific research.

10. It costs absolutely nothing
It doesn’t cost a cent and it is highly contagious.

A recent research showed that pre-school-aged children laugh up to 400 times a day, but by the time we reach adulthood, we laugh a mere 17 times per day on average!

11. It’s easier to smile than to frown
Scientists have discovered that your body has to work harder and use more muscles to frown than it does to smile. So smile more often.
"A smile is the most beautiful curve on the human body."  
12. It’s a universal sign of happiness
While hand shakes, hugs, and bows all have varying meanings across cultures, smiling is known around the world and in all cultures as a sign of happiness and acceptance.

Still frowning? Here are some strategies to help you raise your laughter level:

1. TV and movies
There’s no shortage of comedies out there, both at the theater and in the aisles of the video stores, as well as right on your TV. While wasting your time watching something slightly humorous may actually frustrate you, watching truly hilarious movies and shows is an easy way to get laughter into your life whenever you need it.

2. Laugh with friends
Going to a movie or comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to reference at later times. Having friends over for a party or game night is also a great setup for laughter and other good feelings.

3. Find humor in your life
Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it’s ridiculous, realize that you could "look back on it and laugh". Think of how it will sound as a story you could tell to your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now. With this attitude, you may also find yourself being more lighthearted and silly, giving yourself and those around you more to laugh about. Approach life in a more mirthful way and you’ll find you’re less stressed about negative events, and you’ll achieve the health benefits of laughter.

4. "Fake it till you make it!"
Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. So smile more, and fake laughter; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.

5. Finally, Spend more time with those who make you smile and less time with those who you feel pressured to impress.

And always remember:
"Don’t frown, you never know when someone might be falling in love with your smile!"   


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