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 Laugh at Yourself: Turn that Frown Upside Down 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Over Matter by . View all columns in series
If you can't remember the last time you laughed, it doesn't mean you can't.

It may indicate that your life has been stressful, or that everyday challenges seem overwhelming. In any event, you might be convinced that laughter is great for those happy moments when smiling doesn't take an effort. For the pressured times, who can laugh anyway?

Frankly you might be surprised.

For many, laughter is a powerful healing elixir, or better yet ... natural Prozac. It enables us to reframe our worries and it has extraordinary capacity to help us reestablish a positive and healthy perspective when we're down. Yet even more amazing is the fact that some of the best jokes are based on true-to-life stories about things that actually happen to ordinary people.

Some of the most famous comedians who ever lived developed their materials through one phenomenal talent. They progressively honed their awareness of what was really happening around them. Through such observations, they were able to surgically extract a light-hearted perspective even in the darkest of times.

Yet if it is true that some of the best jokes are based on real occurrences, why aren't we all laughing?

The answer tells us a lot about ourselves. Essentially there are two basic reasons. The first is that no two perspectives are necessarily alike. Some people naturally discover the light-hearted side of things while others seem to settle into a "doom and gloom" mode about practically everything that occurs in their lives.

The second reason is based upon what few of us ever really want to face - self-reflection and self-image. After all, some of what we do and what happens to us must be very funny! Obviously the comedians think so. The bottom line here is straight-forward. Can you laugh at yourself in a positive way?

So why aren't we laughing?

This answer is simple: because we want to be seen as "perfect!" And when we "mess up," we don't want anyone to notice those ridiculous things we do, or the silly situations we somehow create for ourselves. Yet "to err is human." Change just 2 letters and what we have is "to err is humor!"

Isn't it surprising that the words, "human" and "humor" are so alike? Maybe our ancestors knew something we as a society need to relearn. Simply stated, none of us are perfect.

Frankly I believe the quest for perfection has profound physiological effects like wrinkling of the forehead and a strong gravitational pull on the mouth muscles. I'm also convinced that when we discover the "sense of humor" areas of the human brain, they're likely to be atrophied in those who take everything so seriously - only kidding! I'd hate to be the researcher searching for those regions in some of the people I know.

I suppose we all know those people. In fact, we are those people a good part of the time. The most important question we face is "how to turn that frown upside down?"

The process requires 7 simple steps.

  1. Give yourself permission to laugh at yourself.
  2. Rediscover your sense of humor by easing off your drive for perfection and seriousness while encouraging a light-hearted approach whenever possible.
  3. Stimulate your mind to uncover the humor in every situation and give your laughter muscles a daily workout.
  4. Allow laughter to replace alcohol, tobacco, drugs and medications when you're stressed and need to cope.
  5. Encourage your playful side to emerge even during those challenging times.
  6. Accept every funny happenstance as a gift to be shared. When you laugh, especially at yourself, everyone else will join in. Laughter is nothing less than contagious - and healing.
  7. Don't take yourself or anyone else too seriously.
There is a fundamental body of medical evidence that shows laughter's positive effects on the immune system. It has also been recently established that future health outcomes are enhanced by "the glass thatÕs half full" as opposed to "the glass that's half empty." The same rationale likely holds true for those who laugh. Someday, I'm sure we'll find what a great philosopher once said, "he who laughs ... lasts"" - Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman, MD all rights reserved

Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, inventor and researcher. He is the CEO and Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, 18201 Conneaut Lake Road in Meadville, phone (814) 724-1765, fax (814) 333-8662,

Contact Dr. Bittman

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 About The Author
Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, award-winning producer/director and inventor. As CEO and Medical Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, a......moreBarry Bittman MD
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