The Topic - Happiness
The Exercise - Laughter
Is your day something like this…? You wake up at a time that seems almost criminal to the sound of an obnoxiously loud alarm. You get dressed in a hurry and rush off to work holding your iPhone in one hand and a cup of coffee in another, only to end up in traffic behind someone you could swear just got their license that same morning. You work a full day and put up with more stress than any human should have to. During that day you most probably got into an argument with a coworker, had a little tiff with your loved one, ended up paying more bills than you anticipated having to pay, found out you don't have enough gas to get home, and had a realization that life should not be this hard and work should be something you love. You finally get home after what seems like a never-ending day only to eat half of your dinner because the thought of work the next day has stunted your appetite. Then, you sit down on your favorite seat of your favorite sofa in front of your 47 inch flat screen TV to watch your favorite show and lo and behold…your DVR didn't record it :(
Would it be too cliché to say "stop and smell the roses"? Why is it that we don't? One word…STRESS! The silent killer. Everybody knows what it is; no one knows what it is. Stress can be a mental, emotional, or physical strain or tension. When you sense a threat, of any kind, your body automatically goes into what is known as a "flight or fight" response. We become the terminators of the workplace and go into survival mode where a series of events take place in the body: Hormones are released into the blood stream, blood pressure rises, glycogen is rushed to the muscles, heart rate increases, metabolism slows down, testosterone is full throttle, and your brain is firing on all cylinders. What's the big culprit causing all this? - Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. This doesn't sound too bad if you are in a life or death situation, but the stress the guy in front of you at your local Starbucks is causing you because he can't make up his mind on a venti or grande mocha cappuccino doesn't sound like a "flight or fight" situation to me. Too much Cortisol in the bloodstream for prolonged periods of time is detrimental to your health and has been linked to serious illnesses such as heart disease. Some situations cause more stress than others, but to an extent your body responds in the same way. This constant worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, and stress put you in a state of imbalance. Here is something some of you may not know- our bodies like balance. We seek homeostasis and when we don't have that balance, our bodies respond with a laundry list of symptoms you may be familiar with: depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, problems sleeping, nausea, constantly getting colds, smoking more, eating less, gaining weight, moodiness, and many more.
Life isn't easy and stress is a common part of it, we all know this. My advice to you isn't to eliminate stress but to try and minimize it. Exercise is one great way, but how about in the midst of a crazy day? Might sound cheesy, but LAUGHTER has been scientifically shown to decrease stress. Studies have shown that people who have a good sense of humor are less likely to become stressed or depressed. LAUGHTER sends the opposite signal to your brain. If you are laughing, you are relaxed and not threatened. This means your body does not need to be on high alert and allows the Cortisol levels in your blood to return to normal. Have you ever noticed that euphoric feeling you get after having a really good laugh? That's because laughter causes a safe drop in blood pressure and releases endorphins into your blood stream - Endorphins are your body's natural painkiller.
Surprisingly, laughter also has calorie burning effects. Did you know laughing about 10 minutes a day burns roughly 50 calories? Do that for 7 days and you'll burn 350 calories a week. Don't get me wrong laughing does not replace a good cardio session, but it definitely helps when you add all those calories up. So maybe on your drive to work find a good morning show or podcast that makes you chuckle. Read the funnies in the newspaper during your morning cup of joe. Share a laugh with coworkers during lunch and enjoy a happy hour or two after work.
The message in a nutshell - Stress less, laugh more, and you'll be well on your way to a healthier, lighter you!