Our 12 Months of Wellness focus is on infusing your life with fun. Call up an old friend, try laughter yoga, throw a party, or do something you enjoyed as a kid.
Mark Twain wrote, “Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile.” These words of wisdom can be our guide during October, when our 12 Months of Wellness goal is to increase the joy and fun in our lives.
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Have you been following alive’s 12 Months of Wellness? Tell us how it’s going with a tweet (@aliveHealth) using the hashtag #2013alive. And remember to check us out on Facebook (facebook.com/alive.health.wellness) and alive.com for ongoing updates about the 12 Months of Wellness!
Health benefits of laughter
It’s all too easy to allow work pressure, chores, errands, and responsibilities to sap our energy and our sense of humour. But research shows that we can cope better with the stressors in our lives when we tickle our funny bone—yes, laughter can relieve stress.
Laughter is also good for our health for other reasons. The stress-reducing benefits of a good belly laugh include
- an increase in oxygen intake, which stimulates the lungs, heart, and muscles
- improved circulation, which relaxes muscles and relieves stress
- the release of feel-happy endorphins by the brain to boost our mood
- the production of natural painkillers in the body to relieve pain
Spanish researchers who conducted a comprehensive study of laughter research in 2010 found that enough evidence exists to demonstrate that laughter really has a positive effect on health. They recommend that laughter be used as a complementary therapy to prevent and treat illness—and as they state, laughter’s “adverse effects are very limited.”
The benefits of laughter and humour have been substantiated by research in the fields of
- general patient care
- hospice care
- terminal care
If laughter can influence our health so profoundly during times of serious illness, don’t you think it’s time we looked to increase the amount of humour, laughter, and joy in our own lives?
Week 1: September 29 to October 5 – Call up an old friend
Despite our best intentions, we often become swamped with life’s responsibilities. By the time we meet all of our serious adult commitments, our old friends are often relegated to a fleeting thought—a phone call we should have made, a card we should have sent.
Do you have an old friend you haven’t seen in a while? This week, we’re going to reconnect with someone special in our life whom we’ve neglected.
When we form close friendships, we benefit psychologically and physiologically. Undergoing a negative experience alone increases our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But according to recent research, when we share that experience with a friend, our cortisol levels decrease.
As Bette Midler sang, “You got to have friends.” Pick up the phone or shoot off an email to set up a date to reconnect with your old friend.
Things to do
If possible, visit a special place that holds meaningful memories for the two of you. Here are a few suggestions for simple pleasures you can share:
Week 2: October 6 to 12 – Throw a party
There’s nothing more fun than having a party—unless we take on too much, invite too many guests, or plan a complicated menu that takes days to prepare. But with a little planning, a party can be a great way to get a group of friends, family, or co-workers together for some fun.
A party is only limited by your space, budget, and imagination. Invite a few close friends to a dinner party or host a family reunion—just ensure that the experience is not stressful for you. Remember, having fun is our mantra this month!
The key to avoiding stress is planning—and if you’re planning a large party, enlist the help you need to make it happen to reduce stress as much as possible.
Keep things simple
These tips will help you organize a fun soirée:
Week 3: October 13 to 19 – Be bold
Does your home feel like a sanctuary or a disaster zone? Are you tired of the same old décor? Never fear, this month we’re going to spruce up our homes with the use of colour and a bit of art—and we’ll even make it smell good.
You don’t have to be an interior decorating diva to liven up your living space—and you don’t have to break the bank either. A change of wall colours or a colourful accent rug or cushion can put new hum into the humdrum.
According to psychologists, colour can influence our mood. Some colours work better in some rooms than others.
Add a splash of colour
Painting is an obvious way to add colour to a room, but there are simpler, and more noncommittal, ways to brighten up a dull living space. Here are a few suggestions:
Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Garage sales, second-hand stores, and friends are all good sources of preloved but new-to-you items.
Now that the windows are shut for the fall and winter months, add a delightful scent to your home with the use of aromatherapy.
Week 4: October 20 to 26 – Be a kid again
“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood,” according to writer Tom Robbins. And this week, we’re taking his advice—we’re going to do at least one fun thing that we loved to do when we were young.
Play is serious business. It teaches us about our world, stimulates our imagination, exercises our body, and builds friendships. Many of us think that being grown up means the end of play, but play remains beneficial, no matter our age, by helping us
Think back to the things you really enjoyed when you were young—but try not to filter them through adult reasoning. Here are a few suggestions to help you choose a fun-filled activity:
Week 5: October 27 to November 2 – Laugh more
Laugh out loud
There’s nothing like a good comedy to make us chuckle. Now that the weather’s turning cold and blustery, curl up with a bowl of fibre-filled air-popped popcorn and a good movie, and laugh the night away.
No matter if your funny bone is tickled by classic slapstick humour such as Laurel and Hardy or Lucille Ball, or you enjoy contemporary comedians such as Robin Williams or Jim Carrey, there’s a type of comedy to appeal to every personality. Give yourself permission to spend a few hours laughing it up.
Let it out
We can all use a good belly laugh now and then. But if you feel self-conscious letting out a big guffaw in front of other people, maybe you’re hanging with the wrong crowd. Check out a laughter yoga club. Located across the country, classes are led by trained leaders and combine breathing exercises, stretching, and laughter to lift the spirits in a relaxed environment.
Yuk it up
Creativity, spontaneity, and humour meet in improv theatre. Popular across the country, it’s easy to find a local improv troupe. This is another great, economical way to spend an evening and support your local theatre community.
If you have comedic timing, a quick wit, and a flair for the absurd, give improv lessons a try. Improv lessons are often also offered as part of corporate training programs, team-building exercises, and as ways to improve presentation skills. Humour helps in almost every situation.