Smile, Laugh, Connect:
The Key to Increased Morale
By Dale L. Anderson, MD
Often we speak about the
“good chemistry” of a relationship, the “good chemistry” of a place
or the "good chemistry" of an event.
Many physicians recognize
that “good chemistry” means positive feelings and good health, and
“bad chemistry” indicates negative feelings and poor health. The
growing field of
(PNI) is discovering that the physiology of feelings and health can
be altered by many controllable factors that positively or
negatively impact individuals and society. Physicians also recognize
those who positively act happy impact their health and well-being.
Harness the “pharmacy within.”
Endorphins, with a
chemical structure similar to morphine, are one group of
neuropeptides often referred to as the “inner uppers” which get us
“high” on life. As a group, they are most often identified as “the
happy chemistries” which enhance health and success; evidence shows
they can be acted on.
This sheds new light on
ancient questions. Are we happy because we’re healthy, or are we
healthy because we’re happy? Do we laugh because we’re happy, or
are we happy because we laugh? Yes, happy people are apt to laugh
often. At the same time, feelings of pleasure and happiness can
result from the physical act of laughter, because laughter is a
potent way to raise endorphin levels.
Those who know how to
experience the joy of raising endorphin levels hold the keys to a
wide range of possible benefits. Physical benefits include lessening
of tissue inflammation, reduction of pain, relaxation of muscles,
suppression of the appetite, and enhancement of the immune system.
Psychological benefits include a sense of euphoria that can counter
fear, anger and depression. People with “good chemistry” know how to
“live it up” and tend to be friendlier, optimistic, humorous,
creative, confident, perceptive, productive, popular, and yes, more
successful and wealthier.
you can do:
social benefits of raised endorphins are of critical importance for
our society. The good news is people can direct dramatic changes by
learning and teaching a few actions and thought-techniques.
Endorphin levels are
raised through a range of activities. Besides laughing, these
include smiling, eating, exercising, cheering, singing, listening to
music, creative visualizing, camaraderie and romance. Obviously not
all of these are appropriate for every occasion! Yet some are, and
it pays to capitalize on them. As an example, actors use many
actions and thoughts in the green room to get into the “chemistry”
of a happy part. Here are three simple strategies you can start
produce an immediate change of physical, mental and emotional state.
Test this idea for yourself, and force a smile the next time you’re
feeling pensive or worried. Do this no matter how silly it seems at
the moment, and then carefully observe the resulting changes in your
attitude. Notice any subtle feelings of relaxation, relief or
renewed perspective on life.
When we smile, we become
our own physicians, filling an endorphin prescription from our
pharmacy within. If we want to alter our brain chemistry, we don’t
have to take expensive drugs, we can just smile.
Smiling at yourself is
something you can do often. Think of those times you’ve stood in
front of the mirror and clothed yourself with a smile – before the
big date, the big interview or the big meeting. Or consider
searching for your face in a group picture; chances are, you look to
see what you’re “wearing” on your face. If the picture shows your
smile, you’ll probably feel good about what you see.
So, the first and easiest
way to start changing the chemistry is to “costume” your face and
smile. Ask friends and family to become aware of how much they smile
at each other. Remind them of a phenomenon so commonplace that we
constantly forget it: when people smile at us, we usually respond
with a smile. Conversely, when we smile at others, they usually
smile back, and that's an “upper.”
Next, see if
you can upgrade smiles into outbursts of laughter. Many memorable
events and outstanding personal encounters are those that kindled
laughter. Recalling those memories can trigger the physiological
experiences we had during the actual event.
As an example, here’s a
prescription for you; fill it for yourself and then offer it to
friends. It’s called “Laughter RX.” Stand in front of a mirror and
belly laugh three times each day for at least 15 seconds at a time.
It’s important to approach this task with gusto, not a mere snicker
or lackluster chuckle. Whenever possible, do this in the company of
others because laughter is contagious. At first your family and
friends will laugh at you but soon they will laugh with you. This
is an easy way to start a “happy-demic.”
While you may feel silly
doing this, you will get a good laugh out of the experience. Lead
with the body and the mind will follow. In other words, let an
action generate the physiology of your emotions. Don’t wait to laugh
until you feel happy, laugh to boost your endorphins, and then feel
happy. Physiology can be staged and scripted to produce the healthy
pleasure that adds life to any occasion. Learn to laugh for the
“health of it.”
There are several ways to
use the laughter prescription, regardless, the enthusiasm and
goodwill generated is a wonder of nature – living proof that
“laughter is the best medicine.”
impossible for human beings to enjoy optimum health unless they
experience genuine connection. The word “connection” in its broadest
sense means bonding with friends, family, lovers, nature, and
At its most basic
definition, connection means touch. Research with both animals and
humans shows debilitating effects occur when touching ceases to be
part of our lives. We fail to thrive physically and emotionally and
we become more insecure and prone to illness.
We can overcome this
problem in small yet significant ways. A simple handshake, like a
smile or laugh, has the power to bond people in non-threatening
ways. When appropriate, timely and tasteful, and mutually
acceptable, give the pat on the shoulder and other everyday gestures
of friendliness and support.
Of course, there are ways
to foster connection other than physical touch. People appreciate
being asked about their homes, families, hobbies, travel plans and
social interests. This can create connections, satisfaction and
Memorable encounters with
family, friends or strangers are those where participants feel a
strong and lasting sense of being included and involved. These
events evoke physiological feelings of belonging and camaraderie.
There are no better ways to foster the healthy chemistry of
happiness than smiling, laughter and connection.
So put on a smile, laugh
for the “health of it” and stay in touch!
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