Is there anything more contagious than…laughter? Especially during April, National Humor Month? Some believe COVID19 is far more communicable, though when it comes to transmitting something healthy, laughter’s got it beat. The folks behind National Humor Month tell us that it was conceived “to heighten public awareness of the therapeutic value of humor. Laughter and joy – the benchmarks of humor – lead to improved well-being, boosted morale, increased communication skills, and an enriched quality of life.” It’s been said, though admittedly some question the accuracy of this number, that toddlers laugh more than 300-400 times a day, while the average adult manages about 20 chuckles each day. What’s happened to our sense of humor? Has the anger industry, the “if it bleeds it leads” instant cycle media, been stirring the worst news and views, shattering our joy? Listening to the “coronacopia” of negativity can wear on us all. And it does. So, you may ask, what’s there to smile about now? Why smile when the world is ending? Remember, folks, only the end of the world is the end of the world. And there are plenty of good reasons to smile, to find humor, to laugh…like your health.
Health professionals have long known that life is better when you’re laughing. Even before modern medical science proclaimed that laughter is good medicine, Proverbs 17:22 taught us, “A happy heart is like a good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing.” The late comedienne Phyllis Diller noted, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” So why aren’t we laughing more, and enjoying a healthy sense of humor?
It’s time to promote laughter and a positive sense of humor – IF we want to reduce heart disease, find a more natural way to diminish pain, lower blood pressure, strengthen our immune system, increase our energy level, improve our breathing, lose weight, improve our love lives, find an antidote to conflict, increase our feel good endorphins while improving our mood, sleep better, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote a more youthful appearance. That’s quite a list, right? So, how do we do this in the midst of this “coronopocalypse” we’re all living through – or as I prefer to see it, how can we grow through this challenging time that we’re all being asked to learn from?
Grow happier, healthier, better able to learn through CV19 with these 5 steps, what I call the S.M.I.L.E Model for Happiness:
S – Savor
If you want to most conveniently and effectively turbo-fuel your optimism, just linger where your feet are, mindfully focusing on, noticing, and prolonging your enjoyment of the details of whatever it is that you are doing in the moment. By the way, be sure to savor your personal dreams and goals. Doing this while eating will change your focus on food. How many more studies do you really need to know that being hopeful with an optimistic and meaningful sense of purpose in life, one that you savor and enjoy fully, will leave you happier?
M – Me
Self-compassion is linked to positivity, happiness, and health. https://self-compassion.org We need “me” time for our happiness to unwind, allow time for self-discovery, reboot our brains, improve our focus and promote our relationships. How can you get more “me” time? Close your office door if you have one, wake up a bit earlier and savor the quiet time alone, unplug those devices or go for a walk during the workday. Compassion requires that we notice suffering, in others and in ourselves with no judgment. Compassion literally means “to suffer with,” so enlist your emotions and your actions. Compassionate people warmly understand humanity is filled with imperfection and have no pity, simply recognition that suffering is a common, shared, human occurrence. Mindfully bring this comforting understanding to yourself without over-identifying with your negative thoughts or feelings.
I – Interact
Spending time with others, expressing kindness and generosity, doing good deeds for others, will reduce stress, diminish anger, promote social connections and increase happiness. Now, more than ever, this is a challenge for sure. But just the way you are connected to me right now, through technology, you can spend time with others in the same manner. Virtual water cooler or happy hour with others can surely leave you feeling better – just stay away from those who drag and weigh you down. Find the lifters and thrusters in life and fill your calendar with them. Give more of yourself and interact more with others and your life satisfaction will increase, and with it, your health. Simply expressing gratitude to others can increase happiness by 25% according to Bob Emmons, Psychology Professor at the University of California, Davis . He says that, “A few hours writing a gratitude journal over 3 weeks can create an effect that lasts 6 months if not more.”
L – Listen
Whether you enjoy listening to birds chirping in your neighborhood, enjoy the wonderfully joyful noise of your children or grandchildren playing, listening to wonderful music that fits your taste and mood, or the lovely chit chat of a loved one or friend, this will all promote your wellbeing, lift your spirits, fuel your happiness and increase your health. When you listen “radically” to what’s going on within yourself, hearing what others are not saying, you’re really listening. Not a bad return on a few more smiles every day, right?
E – Empathize
Empathy is a two-way street. Do you really care about others? Are you able to put yourself in their shoes? Can you relate with others free of judgment? The more you can and do, the happier you’ll feel. It appears that one overall sure-fire way to grow happiness, and thereby promote health, is to keep your focus on other people, not things, and certainly not the things that others have that you don’t have but believe you should or must have. In fact, the less you “should on yourself, others, and life in general,” the more you accept life, the happier you’ll be. Build empathy for others through permitting your own vulnerability, growing your curiosity about others and finding commonality with strangers around you.
These are some key steps towards smiling more, cultivating an encouraging outlook during a time that others perceive as looking rather grim, and above all maintaining, preserving, and sustaining your health, vigor and wellbeing.