I find that the more I research and learn about alternative treatment methods, the more enthusiastic I am to find that we truly did come into this world with many of the tools we need to heal ourselves. Even though many of us don’t utilize these tools or choose to ignore the effects that poor eating, drinking and lifestyle habits can have on our natural ability to heal, the body and mind contain all that’s necessary to ensure long-term health.
Everyone knows or at least has heard that negative emotions and pessimistic thinking can lead to or exasperate already existing health conditions. Ironically, even if you don’t believe it’s possible, a smile and/or laughter can begin to change the story of one’s health journey. Unfortunately, we don’t see many smiles or laughter around us on an average day.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of The Art of Living Foundation tells us that a baby smiles over 400 times a day, but adults only 12 times. The trademark of his stress relief programs, focused on breathing techniques, is the “smile”. Even though a “fake it until you make it” attitude won’t necessarily produce results, it’s hard to deny that a fake smile can’t easily turn genuine with even just a little sense of humor about life’s problems. Even so, the foundation’s guru is quick to remind us that it’s not the techniques that work, but the intention and attention behind them, which is where manifestation happens.
From a health perspective, smiling is said to reduce stress, which leads to a multitude of other health benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved digestion, regulated blood sugar and other mental improvements associated with anxiety. According to Dr. Mark Stibich, smiling can also boost the immune system, increase positive affect, and enhance other people’s perception of you, which can be a mood and confidence builder.
It also appears that smiling may slow aging not only from an internal “stress free” perspective, but also in terms of wrinkles. Smiling improves firmness in the cheeks, chin and skin around the eyes according to Heike Hoefler, a German fitness instructor, reported in China Daily. By smiling more frequently and even as a technique, holding the smile for an extended amount of time, you can potentially alleviate anger lines between the eyebrows, wrinkles around the mouth and horizontal forehead lines.
Potentially even more interesting then smiling, is the impact of laughter, which is usually preceded by smiling. Laughter has been proven to be so powerful that psychologists are now using it as a therapeutic tool also known as “laughter” therapy. One of the most well known stories related to the powerful healing effects of laughter originated from Norman Cousins, editor-in-chief of Saturday Review for over 30 years. Cousins was skeptical after being diagnosed with a form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis. Based on his research on the biochemistry of human emotions at the University of California School of Medicine, he concluded that if negative emotions could lead to illness, positive emotions should support healing and good health. Following a daily practice of 10 minutes of deep belly laughing, he found that his pain was relieved and he was able to sleep. Although many were skeptical of his findings, in 1989 a journal of the American Medical Association finally acknowledged that laughter could have immediate symptom relieving effects and improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illness.
According to Enda Junkins, LSCW and well-known laughter therapist, laughing releases a lot of deep-rooted pain by helping the patient discharge emotion. This liberation or eruption of pain (fear, anger and boredom) through joy is said to open the doors to emotional healing, even in relation to the most tragic or dire circumstances that have caused the patient distress. From my perspective laughter and pain are two sides to the same coin, which connects them in profound ways. Nature gave us the ability to laugh to help us heal deeply within ourselves.
Sharing from my own personal experience, I recall participating in a course in which they conducted a laughter exercise where we were to lay on the floor with our eyes closed. Within minutes of what started out as a few giggles throughout the room, an eruption of laughter from almost everyone occurred that didn’t end for over 30 minutes. The result clearly demonstrated the contagiousness of laughter and the strong emotional effects as people oscillated between laughter and tears until a great sense of peace could be felt in the room. There is something about laughter that can shed light on circumstances that seem serious and terrible by helping one relate to the facts in a new way, a way that stems from acceptance and seeing the humor in life’s challenges.
So the next time you’re feeling negative emotions, find a way to evoke a smile or laughter and see for yourself how it begins to impact how you feel, your perception, your overall health and ultimately your life circumstances.
 Sconiers, H. (2011, August 11). Health benefits from smiling. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/18859-health-benefits-smiling/
 Stibich, M. (2010, February 4). Top 10 reasons to smile. Retrieved from http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongbeauty/tp/smiling.htm
 Leue, H. (2011, November 3). Smile and the world will see a younger you. Retrieved from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2010-11/03/content_11495250.htm
 Pubmed.gov. “Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter,” LS Berk, et al. The American Journal of Medical Sciences, December 1989: 298(6):390-6.
 Junkins, E. (2007, May 20) The power of laughter in therapy. Retrieved from http://www.laughtertherapy.com/Articlebestbetforblues.htm#Article:%20Power%20of%20Laughter
Published On: July 30, 2012