From the Director

People often ask me why I smile all the time. Studies suggest that smiling, forced or not, can have a positive effect on your mood, decrease stress levels, and make everyone around you feel better. A smile is an uplifting gift either from a stranger or a friend, or to yourself. If you are not in the habit of smiling, practice, until the art becomes as automatic as wearing your seat belt. Every time you pass a mirror or find yourself needing a mental break just smile. Fake it till you make it, even a fake smile will improve your immune system!

The same goes for laughter and humor. Laughter connects us with others, is free and convenient. Did you know that laughter can increase blood flow up to 22%! Dr. Judith Orloff, M.D. writes, “True laughter is a surrender to hilarity -- a sound, a smile, a heart opening. You feel it in your chest, or your whole body may shake. Also, notice that prior to a joke, there’s an air of expectation, a subtle shift in consciousness and attention, the promise of mood transformation. Energy comes from humor."

Late night talk show hosts with their funny monologues are successful because they make us laugh! Laughter is an expression of joy, optimism, compassion, hope and love. It’s great for stress management because it allows us to see a silver lining behind each dark cloud, offers freedom from negative self-talk and can even bring us closer to others. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Here are a few ways laughter does this:

Stimulates many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

Activates and relieves your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.

Improves your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

Relieves pain
Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.

Physical Release
Have you ever felt like you "have to laugh or I'll cry?” Have you experienced the cleansed feeling after a good laugh? Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.

Internal Workout
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.

The next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed practice a good belly laugh:

  1. Place both hands on your belly
  2. Lift your eyebrows
  3. Smile until your molars show
  4. Add sound by saying "ha, ha, ha."
  5. Add movement by gently rolling your head up and down

Rx: At least three times per day

And remember that laughter truly is the best medicine!