Everyone wants to be happy. In fact the Declaration of Independence gives Americans the right to pursue happiness. It is not guaranteed, but we can chart our own path to joy. At times when our work becomes overwhelming, or in this economy underwhelming, we may feel stressed and unable to rise to the level of cheerful delight. However we all know people that no matter the circumstances always seem to have a smile on their face and a joie de vivre. How do they get there and how can we achieve this same satisfaction in our days and allow this feeling to spill over into the work we do? Happy people have three qualities that other people don’t have: they know it, they show it and they grow it.
Nancy Weil is a sought-after lecturer, presenting programs and seminars on the healing benefits of humor to a diverse audience. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she teaches clients how to reduce stress and live an incredible life now. She is Director of Bereavement Support at eleven cemeteries in the Western NY area and serves as a Funeral Celebrant.
The folk wisdom is that “laughter is the best medicine.” Medical science is increasingly able to demonstrate the truth of that saying, and it is not restricted to individual health. Laughter is great medicine for our social relationships too.
In fact, this human urge to connect through laughter is so strong that the number one thing people say they want in a romantic partner is “somebody that makes me laugh.” That’s right: when it comes to our most fundamental and important intimate relationship—the one we hope will last until we die–above all we want somebody we can share laughter with.
Here’s a perspective on laughter that will probably be new to you: laughter and humor are two different things. Laughter, humor, comedy, jokes—they all kind of seem like the same thing, don’t they? But they’re not. Laughter is just a physical act. It’s pushing the air out from our lungs and making that familiar ha-ha-ha sound. You can think of it as a form of exercise, something you can voluntarily do anytime you want, like going for a walk or touching your toes.
Comedy or humor, on the other hand, is mental. We’ve all had the experience of somebody telling us a joke they thought was just great. But when we hear it we don’t think it’s funny, so we don’t laugh. Drawing a distinction between laughter and humor actually gives us a very powerful tool, because it puts laughter under our voluntary control. We’re not dependant on anything from the outside to “make” us laugh. We don’t have to “think” anything is funny. We can just laugh—yep, for no reason, just because it’s good to be alive.
The odd thing is, our body and our mind reacts to laughter the same way regardless of the cause.
Throughout my life, I have been so blessed to hang around with, meet, study, get-to-know and even work with some of the funniest people whom have ever lived. People like Marty Allen from TV’s Hollywood Squares, The great Jerry Lewis, The hilarious Max Alexander…