Don’t worry… be happy!

In every life we have some trouble, when you worry you make it double
— from the song by Bobby Ferrin

With all of the apparent problems we face at this time, the simple pleasures of laughter and fun are probably low on the to do list of most people. Watch the TV news or read the newspapers and you’ll be promptly reminded of the continuing woes of the world, i.e. the volatile stock market, global warming, rising unemployment, the list goes on. Is it any wonder that stress and depression are on the increase with so much to worry about?

Yet, according to research, laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring the mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humour helps to lighten your burdens, it inspires hope, it connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. According to psychologists, laughter strengthens the immune system, boosts energy levels, helps to diminish pain, and protects from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, easy to use and unlike antidepressants, it has absolutely no negative side effects.

Apparently laughter and humour helps to:

  • Relax the physical body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving the muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after
  • Boost the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving resistance to disease
  • Trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain
  • Protect the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems

So, it seems that having a good laugh from time to time will help to keep us healthy both in body and in mind and there are many ways in which to do it. For example, we can:

  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Buy and play CD’s featuring your favourite comedians
  • Go to a comedy club
  • Spend time with people who make you laugh
  • Buy a joke book and read a few pages each night (rather than watching the news)
  • Make others laugh (maybe with your new jokes)
  • Have a fun night with friends
  • Play funny games with our children/grand children or even your partner
  • Do something silly now and again
  • Think about what is good in your life, what you might refer to as your blessings

Learning to take life less seriously. “Like good little children, don’t worry, be happy…” from the song by Bobby Ferrin

Sadly according to some research posted on the web site adults laugh on average 17 times a day which may seem a lot but when compared with children who laugh on average 400 times a day, the figure is pitifully low. Think for a moment about how well children deal with life and maybe there are some clues here. I personally believe that many of us can reduce and maybe even eliminate our stresses and frustrations by taking life and ourselves less seriously (as children do).

I am sure that many people have breathed their last breath relenting on the fact that they took their lives too seriously by worrying about things that they either could do nothing about or about events or experiences that did not actually happen. I read recently of a true story of a yoga student who asked the yoga master the question, “How can I live my life without stress?” The master replied, “Let go of your attachments and take life less seriously!” For me this was a powerful message as I believe that it is the attachment to processions and to outcomes that causes us to feel stress. That doesn’t mean not valuing our possessions or being indifferent to what is going on in the world but letting go of those things that we cannot control. Of course the situation in Europe is serious.

Of course watching our pension funds temporarily decline in value is worrying. Of course we may face the prospect of losing a job or indeed of having lost it already. But the question is, does worrying help? If it doesn’t then it’s perhaps best not to do it.