#013 - Put your LAUGH POWER in gear and join Dr. Charles Boyer for a session on how your Laugh Power can benefit you physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Hello again, and Welcome to KEYS FOR NEW LEADERS, a podcast that is just for YOU, my friend. I’m so glad you are joining me for today’s episode. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie. In the last episode, number 12, we featured my good friend, Deb Chisholm, creator of ME POWER. If you missed it, I hope you’ll have time to give it a listen. Her presentation was excellent, and you’ll learn a lot from her about how ME POWER can help YOU as a new leader.
This is Episode 13, so I hope you’re not superstitious about that number 13. If you are, call this Episode 12.5 and keep listening. I call this episode LAUGH POWER, and we’ll be talking about the positive power of laughter in our lives. And do we ever need it now! I read that the average 3 year old laughs about 400 times a day, and that adults laugh only about 15 times. Either we’re becoming sourpusses as we get older, or we’re just missing out on some good times. French actor/entertainer Maurice Chevalier is quoted as saying, “You don’t stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.” Lots of truth in that statement!
I grew up with lots of laughter. My Grandpa had a big, loud, boisterous, belly laugh that used to scare my cousin. But I loved it. He made the whole room laugh right along with him. And he loved to play practical jokes – the kind that really didn’t do any harm to anyone. Once, his neighbor planted some tomato plants. Grandpa waited until the neighbor left to run errands, then he went over and stuck little cherry tomatoes on the new plants, so the neighbor would think his plants had already sprouted. I wish I had been there to watch when his neighbor got back home!
I’m glad I grew up with laughter, because with the laughter came good family times, fun memories, and lots of love to go around. My mom had a wacky sense of humor. Once, she cut out pictures of food and served it on dinner plates to her disbelieving nieces. No wonder they called her Crazy Aunt Bernie. And – have you noticed that we tend to remember the fun times, the funny times, the good, loving times rather than the darker times? It’s really no mystery. There’s something to laughter that is a great form of self-care, of self-preservation. One study found that people with a sense of humor lived an average of 8 years longer than others. LAUGH POWER is real!
The Mayo Clinic staff says that stress relief from laughter is no joke. More data is showing that there are real, positive benefits from laughter. Among other things, a good laugh can:
· Stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles with the intake of oxygen-rich air
· Activate and relieve your stress response by increasing and then decreasing your blood pressure
· Sooth tension by stimulating circulation and helping muscle relaxation.
Well, that’s only a few of the medical descriptions of what’s happening to us when we laugh. Robinson, Smith & Segal wrote a Help Guide that says more about how laughter benefits your overall physical and mental health. Among their findings are:
· Laughter relaxes the whole body
· Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals in our body that help relieve pain and anxiety
· Laughter burns calories – but not enough to skip your workouts!
· Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load
· Laughter brings people together and strengthens relationships
That last point – bringing people together – is one that we really need right now. We have had to be apart from friends and family for quite some time, and finally being able to get together with friends and family will help us all feel lots better. Laughing WITH – not AT – others brings us all closer together.
As much as I dislike the ever-present laugh tracks on TV sitcoms, they really do work. It’s all but impossible to keep a straight face when we hear others laughing, even if it’s canned laughter.
So, let’s get your LAUGH POWER in gear. Here are a few suggestions:
· Smile. Just let go of your frown and smile – BIG. I wouldn’t advise trying to “grin a bear to death” like Davy Crockett, but just put on a big, happy SMILE. “Put on a Happy Face,” as the song goes.
· Spend time with happy, fun people. They will lift your spirits every time. I once saw a roadside sign that described the town just ahead as “Home of ten thousand happy people and one or two old grouches.” I’d like that place, wouldn’t you?
· Bring humor into your talks with others. A good question to ask is: “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this week?” It will start tickling funny bones right away. And be prepared to share one of your funniest moments, too!
· Count your blessings. Look on the bright side. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way to lighten us up. It may not produce a belly laugh, but aim for a big smile here.
· Spend time playing with a pet. Even an old cat or dog always finds time to play. They enjoy chasing that toy, and let’s admit it, you enjoy tossing it for them, don’t you?
· Spend some time with children. They are creative, free spirited, fun, and funny, too. And you can be free spirited and fun right along with them. I used to tell my grandkids that I was so old that I used to ride a dinosaur to school. They believed me – for about 15 seconds. Then we all had a good laugh. And just try to be serious. A good game to play with kids is just to sit in a circle and have everyone just sit still and be quiet, with a straight face. When everyone settles down and gets really quiet, then exclaim, “No laughing!” and see what happens!
· Laugh at yourself. There is a lot of good material, there. You know, when I retired, I was honored when the university bestowed on me the title of “Professor Emeritus” -- until I found out that “Emeritus” was Latin for “Old Coot.” And, you’ve heard about the Golden Parachutes many get when they retire? Well, mine was sort of a dirty yellow hanky. They gave me a clock that worked for about a month and then it quit and the hands fell off. Guess I didn’t need to watch the clock anymore when I retired. Oh, and the best one – I got a Lifetime Pass for the faculty parking lot.
· Do something silly, just because! Or something totally different or daring – well, just so it’s legal. I have an old 1950s dial phone. Awhile back, I put it in a shopping bag and took it to the cell phone store, and said I needed to upgrade my phone. The clerks were dumfounded. Then they laughed! When I turned 80, I thought I’d do something completely outrageous – so I started this podcast. Well, I’m enjoying it, I’ve learned a lot, and besides, it keeps the buzzards at bay!
· Watch a funny movie or TV show. Several of the old classics are still good for great big laughs after years of reruns. Watch Victor Borge do his routine on “Phonetic Punctuation.” The Carol Burnett Show always had some hilarious skits, like Tim Conway as the bumbling dentist, or Carol as Scarlett O’Hara wearing the curtains. Then there’s Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in the “Lucy and the Chocolate Factory” skit. And we can’t forget Abbott & Costello’s famous “Who’s On First?” routine. You can find these on YouTube. I dare you to watch them with a straight face. Betcha can’t.
· Listen to funny songs. There are so many to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites: “Make ‘Em Laugh” from the movie, Singin’ in the Rain; “I Love to Laugh” from the movie, Mary Poppins; and even some opera : “Adele’s Laughing Song” from Die Fledermaus. They always make me laugh, and I’ve heard them hundreds of times.
· There are also some good quotes from well-known people to read and chuckle over. Here are just a few favorites:
o “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong” (Groucho Marx)
o “Laughter is an instant vacation” (Milton Berle)
o “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter” (Mark Twain)
o “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people” (Victor Borge)
o “Laughter is America’s most important export” (Walt Disney)
And if you think church is supposed to be serious and somber, there’s a quote attributed to 18th Century French author and humanist, Voltaire, who said “God is a comedian playing to an audience that is too afraid to laugh.” Think about that! God must have a sense of humor – just look at us humans and our foibles! Can you doubt that God has a sense of humor when you look at an ostrich? Or a duck-billed platypus? Or a warthog?
Recently, I ran across a book by the Rev. Susan Sparks, an ex-lawyer, then comedian, then Baptist minister. Her book, Laugh Yourself to Grace, is a good, fast read that gives you a lot to think about. She calls laughter “the GPS system for the Soul.” I’ve enjoyed it and I recommend it to you. She states that laughter can help you:
· Debunk the myths that you don’t deserve joy
· Find perspective when you are faced with adversity
· Reclaim play as a spiritual practice, and
· Heal emotionally, physically and spiritually
Reading this book reminded me of the 1977 movie, Oh God!, starring George Burns and John Denver. At first, I didn’t want to see it, thinking it was sacrilegious. I was so wrong. It was a delightful movie, filled with messages of love and joy and goodness, and at the same time, it was very funny. One of my favorite lines was when George Burns, as God, was being sworn in as a trial witness, puts his hand on the Bible, and says “So help me, me.” That movie is more than 40 years old, and it’s still funny! Now, that’s funny!
CLAIM YOUR LAUGH POWER! We all have it, and it’s yours just for the taking. Some people’s LAUGH POWER is well hidden. Find YOURS and put it to work for you! If you fuss over the mistakes you make, take a hint from Benjamin Zander, who taught his overly critical students to say “How Fascinating!” and go on when they made a mistake. If you text a lot, aim for more of the LOLs and the ROFLs. I didn’t see one for “laughing so hard I wet my pants” but I’m sure somebody will come up with it or something better.
Then, there’s Rule Number Six. Always remember Rule Number Six. It goes something like this: Two prime ministers were meeting to discuss some affairs of state between their two countries. During their negotiations, an aide rushed in with a serious problem. The first prime minister said, “Please remember Rule Number Six,” and the aide quieted down and left the room. A short time later, another aide rushed in with another serious problem. Again, the first PM said, “Please remember rule Number Six,” and as before, the aide immediately calmed down and left the room. The second PM said, “That was extraordinary. Tell me, what IS Rule Number Six?” The first PM said, “Rule Number Six is: Don’t Take Yourself So Damned Seriously.” The second PM said, “Amazing! And what are the other rules?” The first PM replied, “There aren’t any.”
So, always remember Rule Number Six, and LOL and ROFL, and whatever else you can to keep laughing. LAUGH POWER is good for your body, good for your mind, good for your soul. Life is short. Have a good laugh today, and everyday. We may not get to 400, but we sure can do better than 15 laughs a day.
As before, I usually include some questions for you to think about and answer on your own. Here they are:
1. Think of someone who makes you laugh. What about that person is funny to you?
2. When is the last time you laughed so hard that you cried?
3. How good do you feel just after a big laugh?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together for you. I need a few more laughs today, so I’m off to watch a couple of those Comedy Classics that I mentioned earlier. I invite you to do the same!
In the next episode, we’ll focus on what makes good coaching questions for those you lead, and help you put together some examples that you can use right away. Until then, please stay safe and well, my friend – AND – use your LAUGH POWER!