LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE ©
By Polly Guerin
When it comes to gaiety and laughter, I often think of the hilarious aria, “Glitter and Be Gay” from the 1950s operetta “Candide” based on Voltaire’s brilliant satire of human folly written in 1759. With music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics by Richard Wilbur much of Candide’s verve springs from its joyous parodies. The aria takes its inspiration from Charles François Gounod’s “Jewel Song” from opera Faust which he composed in 1858. In Candide the singer takes great delight in the treasures in her jewelry chest laughing all through the aria as she brings forth her sparkling gems. There’s a lot of Ha Has in this aria especially at the end when the Ha Has builds up to an amazing crescendo and the singer breaks into soaring high notes of laughter. Although the average person, could not easy to duplicate the singer’s virtuosity, but just listening to the aria in itself is quite amusing and makes one want to get into the high jinks of this humorous display of frivolity. Why would this be good for you? Well, medical studies show that laughter boosts levels of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and suppresses levels, of epinephrine, the stress hormone. Just as humor is an important ingredient for good health so is a positive attitude of optimism, and when these elements are combined it benefits the mind, body and spiritual outlook on life.
LAUGH YOUR WAY TO HAPPINESS
It was such a joy to hear young girl’s giggling on a bus recently. Their happy voices really made the day so cheerful. Watching funny movies can also help to dispel the darkness of our concerns. Yet in today’s economic climate a sense of humor seems to be hard to come by. Instead of dour attitude take up another song’s advice, “Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” In other words, stop worrying so much and instead become a glad tider greeting each day with optimism and joy. No, I am not suggesting you become a Pollyanna, and see everything with rose tinted glasses like the heroine in the novel by the same name (1913) by Eleanor Porter. Pollyanna was a personality characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything, indeed a most unrealistic approach. However, your happy attitude can be infectious and influence family, friends and everyone around you to “Lighten Up,” and look on the brighter and positive side of life’s dilemmas and emergencies, which eventually confront us as they invariably do.
EDGAR CAYCE ON HUMOR
It’s hard to belief that America’s celebrated prophet, Edgar Cayce, had quite a lot to say about humor and in some of his readings he advised, “Cultivate the ability to see the ridiculous and retain the ability to laugh. For know only in those God hath favored is there the ability to laugh, even when clouds of doubt arise, or when every form of disturbance arises. For remember the master smiled, and laughed oft, even on the way to Gethsemane.” (277-1) Cayce did not have an exactly easy time of it during his early years when he was establishing himself as a psychic. There were many hardships to bear in regard to income and his family’s living accommodations, which were from the start not always the best. Yes, despite the modest circumstances of those early years Cayce pressed on with his psychic work and had time to advise people on humor. He said, “Remember that a good laugh, an arousing even to what might be called hilariousness, is good for the body physically, mentally, and gives the opportunity for greater mental and spiritual awakening.”
LAUGH YOUR HEART OUT
Obviously, Cayce agreed with Laugh Practitioners that laughter is good medicine. These modern day laugh practitioners have made a business out of laughter. They hold sessions to engage groups of people to laugh their hearts out. The group starts out with a simple Ha Ha and keeps building up with heartier Ha Has till everyone is kneeled over laughing. Stress rolls away, the body feels lighter, the smiles on the faces of the participants reveal their joyful surrender that releases cares and tension by learning how to laugh heartily. This is an excellent therapy and I understand that the sessions are not usually expensive. Most importantly humor also relieves emotional distress and assists in changing negative thinking. No wonder some enlightened holistic and senior centers have incorporated laugh sessions into their extra-curricular activities. Case in point, when Norman Cousins, an author, editor, professor and promoter of holistic healing was suffering from a life-threatening issue disease he turned to laughter medicine. He knew he didn’t have a good chance of getting better in a hospital, so he checked himself out of the hospital and into a hotel room, where he watched Marx Brothers movies all day. He attests to that fact that laughing at the silly antics in the movies helped him recover from the disease. He contends that laughter is an antidote to apprehension and panic. Author Toni Carroll Terman, laugh lecturer and author of the book, “Laugh Your Fat Off,” written in collaboration with her husband Dr. Philip Terman, is an outstanding proponent of laugh therapy. She cites many ways to laugh those pounds of your body and to boost mind, body and spiritual renewal. You can purchase her book on Amazon.
NEVER LAUGH AT ANOTHER’S EXPENSE
I adore comedians who can magically take us to another place where we can laugh at their well intentioned jokes. It’s such a relief to let go and laugh our worries away. However, when a comedian or anyone for that matter makes a joke out of someone’s misfortune or by the joke’s content reflects upon an individual’s shortcomings or simply makes fun of them--this treatment is not in good taste or acceptable. Edgar Cayce recommended, “One should cultivate more the humorous side of life. Not that which is at the expense of another; that is, never laugh at anyone but laugh with others often.” (2327-1) Okay there are times that we need to grieve but life must go on. I remember a mother who fell into such a deep depression over her soldier son’s death that she totally began to ignore her other children. A good neighbor urged her to pull herself together, and repeated the phrase “Your children need you,” over and over again. When this mother heard the laugher of her other children she was roused from her grief and could focus on their need. To help pull her out of this depression, unbeknownst to the mother, the neighbor took her to a comedy club to listen a comedian, who was a friend and had been alerted about the mother’s sorrow. He adjusted his routine to accommodate her need and the evening’s entertainment lightened her heavy heart. Late night new broadcasts with the gloomy news were eliminated and instead the woman listened to classical music before falling asleep.
DO NOT LOSE SENSE OF HUMOR
Edgar Cayce steps up to the plate with yet another bit of advice. He cautions, “At times the entity sees so well the humor in so many situations as to appear to see the ridiculous rather than that which is the creative force in humor. Do not lose this sense of humor. It will oft be a means for saving an unseemly situation.” (2421-2) Cayce further said, “If you lose the ability to laugh, ye lose that ability to be joyous.” (3003-1) What better way to approach each day than with the intention to lighten up and open to the joy of living with full of optimism. Like a child with a sense of wonder shall we not laugh with abandon? ‘Tis such an infectious thing to do and an easy mantra to incorporate into your daily routine. As Cayce said, “Be optimistic! At least make three people each day laugh heartily by something you say.”