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Attitude 5: Laugh at Your Own Problems

It has been proven scientifically - laughter is good for us. Laughter strengthens our immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more reliably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Studies on laughter show that it releases endorphins in the brain—our homegrown feel-good chemicals. It also improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. These physical and mental changes make it possible to look at problems far more rationally. Replacing stress with humour and comedy is a much better coping strategy than taking a more serious approach. You may start out laughing hysterically at something and look completely foolish but in a few minutes, you will be looking at everyday problems more rationally than you would have otherwise. In particular, black humour can serve to take a typically negative event or experience and turn it into a less disturbing situation. It allows us to look directly at what is painful and through humour interpret it in a less harmful and threatening way. For me laughing at my problems has become a matter of practicality more than anything else. A good example to consider is the number of high-rise buildings which don’t have plans to evacuate people in wheelchairs in the event of a fire. There are a lot of simple low-cost ways of doing it, but it is often overlooked and put in the ‘too hard’ basket. Instead of avoiding all high-rise buildings, I’ve often found myself telling people a joke to better explain the predicament of this: What has four wheels, is black and sits at the top of the stairs? A quadriplegic after a building fire ! This example of black humour has two purposes. Firstly, it allows me to look at a potentially dangerous situation and to interpret it in a way that is less intimidating. Secondly it also alerts other people to the issue, but it isn’t attacking them personally. Black humour is a way of confronting an issue without attacking an individual. In Australia we’re renown for wrapping up some hard truths in our humour to get our message across. We affectionately call it “taking the piss”. Through humour you can look for help if we need it, to advance your life and overcome challenges or adversity. Laughter is your birthright, a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Infants begin smiling during the first weeks of life and laugh out loud within months of being born. With so much power to help us overcome the difficulties of everyday life, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.

- Key things to remember: Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh–or even simply a smile–can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious—just hearing laughter primes your brain and it’s great for your health and well being.

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