Laughter is the best Medicine

My brother Bernard died in early March 2016, and his philosophy was to keep on laughing as a way to cope with the pain he endured for several years due to his aggressive cancer. It must have been such a difficult time for him to have endured, but I can say that he did seem to have managed to keep on laughing almost to the end.  He was extremely intelligent and unbelievably well read but had a very wicked and totally sacrilegious sense of humour and had no hesitation in taking the mickey out of all and sundry. I do believe though that a certain level of intelligence is linked to a good sense of humour – real humour, that is, and not the Laurel and Hardy slapstick type.

It has been documented by psychologists that there are noticeable changes which take place in the brain when one is laughing and there is no doubt that time spent having a good belly laugh changes one’s perspective, even if it is short lived. Laughter decreases stress hormones and improves one’s immune response as well as increasing antibodies to help fight infection and illness.  There is always something which one can find to laugh about, it just takes regular practice. A happy baby just laughs because he can, and that in itself is enough to make those around him laugh as well.

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Laughter therapy as a holistic treatment to assist in mental as well as physical well-being appears to be on the increase and there are centres in America for the treatment of cancer patients where laughter therapy is being advocated.  There is also Laughter Yoga and both Laughter Therapy as well as Laughter Yoga can be investigated on the internet as there seem to be various options available and an abundance of information.  If these methods can help alleviate day to day stressful situations and aid in coping with diseases such as cancer, then they do deserve some serious (excuse the choice of words) consideration.

Those who readily smile and refrain from taking themselves too seriously are often people who are having to cope with the most difficult of situations. These same people are often very quick to laugh and often at themselves. However, there are many of the miserable ones out there in the big bad world who are just sad sacks who really have very little to complain about. Yes, maybe they are just depressive by nature, but sadly their tendency to see the glass half empty instead of half full, can be a turn-off as far as other people wanting to spend time with them is concerned.

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I live in a suburb where there are many upmarket retirement complexes in the vicinity. People buying into these complexes are most certainly not financially needy as the prices asked in most of them are too high for many citizens to afford.  The local shopping centre is frequented by many of these “pensioners” and there is rarely a smiling face among them. Sad to say they really could do with taking a look in the mirror at their miserable, down-turned mouths and start re-assessing their good fortune. They have the security of the complex, the comfort of a warm bed at night, and very often relatively good health to enjoy. A smile and more than that, a really good belly laugh, could improve their looks remarkably!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not attacking only the older generation regarding their lack of a smile or a sense of humour. There are many much younger people who seem to suffer from the same disease called “smilelessness” and many of them drive fancy cars and dress in expensive clothes and even have time for personal pampering sessions. It doesn’t seem to change the fact that they just don’t seem to take the time to look at their lives, be grateful for what they have and smile and laugh a bit along life’s way.

“A wonderful thing about true laughter is that it destroys any
kind of system of dividing people.” – John Cleese

Despite all the negativity which is so prevalent in South Africa currently, it isn’t hard to find a smiling face. Usually it is the less fortunate people who have very little to be thankful for who are the quickest to respond to a friendly greeting with a huge smile. It is an African custom to greet one another in passing, regardless of whether or not you know the person whom you greet. Having studied an African language as well as the culture of several of the African language groups, it has become second nature for me to wave or greet African people when I pass by. If the day is bleak for whatever reason, a friendly smile and a “how are you?” can go such a long way to improving one’s frame of mind. Taking a few minutes to make some or other silly remark to the people one meets during the course of the day often can result in laughter.  Therefore, how sad that in the case of so many privileged people,  a smile would most likely cause their dissatisfied faces to crack – and a laugh, now that is really stretching things a bit too far!

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