Feb 04 2010
My husband Tom and I have been getting high on some really potent stuff and I want to share some with you. The great thing about it is it’s free, readily available and has no bad side effects. What is this great stuff? It’s laughter. We laugh on purpose like crazy and before we know it we’re loaded…with endorphins. Endorphins are natural pain and stress relievers that create a feeling of well-being and even euphoria. It works whether the laugh is real or simulated. Want to get high together right now? Let’s cook up some endorphins in our body lab and laugh together for a few seconds and fake it til we make it.
How do you feel? You have just produced some powerful juju in your body. Besides decreasing stress and increasing bliss, you have lowered your blood pressure, activated your immune system, oxygenated yourself, and, if you’re laughing with others, created social bonding. Laughter is a strong stimulant for social bonding. Infants laugh at an early age as a way to bond and connect with their caregivers. For the same reason, most of our laughter occurs when we are with other people.
I want to share some ways you can use the power of laughter to create joyful relationships. People in happy relationships laugh often. But relationships, as you know, are not always a laughing matter. We can get stuck in our position and our playmate becomes our stale mate. Our bodies literally become frozen in the position of our position, such as, arms folded, shoulders hunched, scowl on our face – we are in lock and load mode, ready to fire, or we are locked down and glued shut. Play and laughter are powerful solvents that dissolve the glue and shift us back into closeness and feeling good.
One of the best ways I’ve found to shift quickly is to go playfully non-verbal. As adults we have well-developed minds that, like supercharged attorneys, can build strong cases for our position and keep us stuck in it – we become encased in the cases we build. Going non-verbal quiets our well-meaning but troublemaking mind and helps turn a battleground into a playground. Let me give you some examples.
Tom and I first met ten years ago at Gay and Katie Hendricks’ relationship workshop where they emphasized play as a way to shift. During the breaks Tom and I danced together and made faces at each other for the fun of it. Tom is a master of making faces. I thought, here is someone I can really play with. As our relationship progressed we added growling to the mix. Whenever we felt anger coming up we would growl. Grrrrrrr. It expressed our feelings, and it kept the anger from taking hold, and laughter would always follow. To this day we still make faces and growl to lighten the mood.
Here’s another example: Recently we were driving on the highway and Tom accelerated as the car ahead of us was braking. I was scared and yelled, “Slow down, you’re too close to that car!” I could feel my adrenaline pumping and I felt angry. Right then I knew I had a choice to either get swept away in the surge of adrenaline or to shift. I chose to shift by going non-verbal and doing some fake laughing and Tom joined me. Our fake laughter soon turned into real laughter, and my adrenaline turned into endorphins.
Another example: when Tom and I are aware of a power struggle happening between us, we shift into play mode by ‘assuming the position’ – we stand facing each other, and put our chests together and then…we push as hard as we can trying to push the other across the room. We break up laughing and we break the power struggle.
Play and laughter loosen and free us from our rigid positions, which helps us see things more clearly and allows us to find creative solutions. If you want to decrease stress, increase pleasure, and promote bonding with others, lace your day with laughter. It’s a fun, natural high and a healing medicine. As the saying goes, “He who laughs lasts.”