Put on a Happy Face

Senior couple driving bicycles on the beach
Senior couple driving bicycles on the beach

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather took me to Scarborough to see the British comedian, Ken Dodd. I loved the show. I snorted and guffawed at the jokes, especially his opening one, "What a beautiful day for sticking a cucumber through someone's letterbox and shouting, Help, help! The Martians have landed!"

I adored his mad hair, large, jutting teeth and ridiculous jokes. What I liked most, though, was the energy that surrounded him and the fantastic feeling I got from cackling and crowing with laughter throughout the performance, embarrassing both my mother and my grandfather.

At the end of the show, he sang a song called "Happiness," which includes the lines: "I thank the Lord that I've been blessed, with more than my share of happiness."

"He who laughs... lasts" - Erma Bombeck

I have since associated happiness with laughter and vice versa. Laughter can make you happier. It has long been said that laughter is a medicine or tonic. Moreover, recent studies corroborate that statement. Without getting too technical, I can relay that laughter reduces the level of stress hormones, such as cortisol. It releases endorphins and increases the number of antibody-producing cells which, in turn, results in a stronger immune system.

Laughter provides a physical and emotional release. It gives you an internal workout. A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs and even gives your heart and shoulders a workout. A chuckle can deflect negative emotions such as anger, guilt or stress. Humor gives us a more light-hearted perspective so we might see something as a challenge rather than a threat.

More important than all of the above, laughter connects us with others. Some years ago, my husband and I were invited to attend a laughter course. We snorted with derision at the whole concept, but went along because it was run by a neighbor we didn't wish to offend.

We all lay down on the floor forming a circle, hands on bellies. We had to feign laughter. Our neighbor began. He had a wholesome, Santa Claus-type of laugh that made us snicker slightly. Others joined in with high pitched laughs, contagious giggles, happy sounding chuckles and sniggers. When you emitted a laugh, you felt it transmit to your stomach, which made you laugh even more. That, along with the sound of laughter filling the room, soon meant that we were all guffawing genuinely, to the point of hysteria. We felt so much better after the session, as we wiped away tears and hugged everyone goodbye.

Even if you don't feel like chortling merrily, the body can be fooled by even a fake laugh and you will feel the benefits mentioned above.

News Center 5's Liz Brunner revealed that an average healthy child will laugh approximately two hundred times a day, whereas a normal healthy adult will laugh a mere fifteen times a day on average. I believe wholeheartedly in getting my daily dose of laughter. My mission each day is to attempt to make as many people smile or laugh as I can and I always start each day trying to make my husband laugh. That is no mean feat in itself. It usually takes six jokes before he cracks, or tells me to shut up.

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face." - Victor Hugo

Humor and laughter have always played a large role in my life. I hid behind the mask of class clown in an effort to be accepted by others. It allowed me to mix with people, even though on the inside, I was a quaking jelly. A joke, pulling a funny face or being able to imitate people's accents somehow helps you integrate better. I have always tried to make people laugh, whether that be at work, or at social events. Laughter saw me through some very bleak times in my life, particularly when spinal injury disrupted my life. Humor carried me through several major operations, paralysis, months of bedridden discomfort and anxiety.

Nowadays, I write humorous articles and books for people like me, who are finding life more difficult as we age. The more I write about life and its shortcomings, the funnier I seem to find it. Humour sees me through. Discovering you have lost all the hairs in your left eyebrow, but are now sprouting a fine moustache, can knock your confidence. Realizing that you have become invisible to society is daunting. Thinking you are no longer useful is depressing. Better to shrug your shoulders and write a funny post about it, then distract yourself reading some silly jokes on Twitter or watching "Simon's Cat" on YouTube.

So, if you feel a little low and you are struggling with life, take a dose of humor medicine. Put on some seventies or eighties music, have a little dance round the kitchen and then either watch a funny DVD or read a light-hearted book. You'll soon find you feel better, have a smile on your face and will be singing along to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

"Life is too short. Smile while you still have teeth." - unknown