By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
How many times do you laugh a day? Studies have found that children laugh at least a few hundred times a day, and adults about 30.
You know why?
As adults, we can get tense, angry, anxious, and sad easily without logical reasons at times. We take things too personally and seriously. We forget to laugh, appreciate, and have fun. We forget to take the time to slow down, and we neglect our health and the people we love. We forget about what really matters. When was the last time you felt joy and appreciation? When was the last time you laughed heartily like a 7-year-old?
It may sound ridiculous, but I’d like to confess: While I am a die-hard workaholic, I practice doing silly things just to amuse myself. It seems to work because I feel fabulous, laugh more, see humor when others can’t, and enjoy my work even though my workload is overwhelming.
Laughter is the best medicine, especially for the sick, anxious, and depressed. It can heal because it switches the chemicals in your brain, from toxic stress and worry to feel-good hormones, such as serotonin, the happiness hormone; dopamine, making you feel alert; and endorphins, which reduces anxiety and sensitivity to pain. It increases oxygen to your body when you open your diaphragm to laugh. It exercises your internal organs effortlessly. Consequently, it relaxes you and releases pain from the body. The more you laugh, the more optimistic and blissful you feel.
If you can make others laugh, it’s a talent and blessing indeed. Never mind if people call you a comedian. Isn’t it wonderful if you can bring joyous moments to those who desperately need it?
How not to take yourself seriously
When things go wrong or don’t turn out the way you expect, think humor. It should be your first response, not fight or flight.
Last week, I brought herbal sleeping pills in case I couldn’t sleep on the plane, flying from Seattle to London. After sleeping for two and a half hours, I woke up. Aha, I am prepared, I thought. I put one herbal sleeping pill in my hand-held bag. I could sleep for another three hours.
Ridiculously, it produced the opposite effect — it was as if I had taken a stimulant — I was completely awake. Three hours passed by, and nothing happened. I used to curse when I couldn’t sleep. This time, I laughed and even sang, “Old girl got tough body.” I felt thankful that I was on vacation.
Later, the plane arrived in London, and I quickly transferred to another flight to Hamburg, Germany. Without even trying, I went right to sleep on that flight — six hours after I took the pill. The world’s worst sleeping pill — requiring six hours to cause drowsiness.
At the hotel, I discovered the truth: I screwed up. There was nothing wrong with the pill. I grabbed the wrong pill while packing. Good thing I didn’t pack a laxative. The joke was on me. I took an herbal pill for sinus allergy, which had a similar color to the sleeping pill.
Another recent embarrassing incident began when an Asian woman walked into the Northwest Asian Weekly office. She asked to see me. A candidate for the Kent City Council, Elizabeth Peang’s photo was published on the front page recently.
“Who is your opponent?” I asked. She pointed to the Asian Weekly and the photo of the Asian female that we placed next to hers. How odd that we put both her and her opponent’s photo side by side. For readers’ convenience, the editor’s intent is to line up candidates according to the seat they run, and not by alphabetical order.
That’s not the most funny part. Amazingly, she and the Asian Weekly have been connected in the most symbiotic and inauspicious way. It was then that I learned where she works. Of all the organizations in the world, she works in our neighborhood in the International District — the facility which has received the worst publicity lately — the eyesore which our community hates.
The Navigation Center. Our community has opposed the mayor strongly in designating the homeless center in our backyard.
“No way,” I almost burst out laughing when I heard it. I promised that I would visit the center soon. When I shared the incident later with my family, I just laughed, “What a small world!” I credit her good faith and grace to pay us a visit. You never know who is reading the Asian Weekly, and what impact our stories have on another’s life.
Several years ago, I took a class called Laughing Yoga. It teaches to fake your laughter until it becomes real. The point is to embrace laughter, and it will embrace you. Every day, practice laughing just because.
Not everyone likes the class. I invited the instructor to give a seminar to the Asian Weekly Foundation’s Summer Youth Leadership Program students years ago. They rejected it because they couldn’t accept the idea of faking it. I then realized that maturity is a prerequisite for the course. They had not been to the level of developing an inner free spirit. Their brains could not transform subject matters from conceptual to experiential consciousness.
Most days, I forget to laugh when I get up in the morning. However, I make it a habit to look for funny lines and stories in newspapers every day. If I fail, I go to YouTube and listen to Stephen Colbert and other comedians’ jokes for 10 minutes while eating breakfast. I seldom watch sad or violent movies. Those forms of entertainment sap my energy and spirit. I rent DVDs on famous comedians from the library. When I am stressed, I remind myself of some old Jay Leno jokes. Laugh it off and I am fine again.
I deal with a lot of cranky folks who never smile or laugh like Scrooge. Are they serious by nature or are they mean? I know some of our fathers and grandfathers never smiled. Their rationale was, if they laughed or smiled, they would lose authority and respect. What a load of crap! Boy, did they miss out!
Here is a list to help transform your attitude from being grouchy to open-minded, open-hearted, and joyful human beings.
1. Relax yourself first
2. Let it go
3. Don’t sweat the small stuff
4. Find the funny side of things
5. Forgive easily and be quick to laugh
6. Create laughing opportunities for others. Share funny photos, lines, and stories with friends and loved ones. Put funny photos or words on your wall or computers.
7. Practice laughing exercises every day. Find three things which make you happy or feel good during the day.
8. Stop saying it’s not funny when others are laughing. Join them and go with the flow. Laughing should be contagious. And you can do it.
When is a good time to start your laughing habit?
“The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.