To Laugh at Oneself
Written by: Sujantra McKeever
The ability to laugh at oneself is essential to a healthy sense of self, stress reduction, and overall happiness in life. Laughter as medicine is scientifically proven. A 2005 study found that laughter triggers a function key to overall health. Laughing helps facilitate the dilation of blood vessels, improving their overall function and stimulating the cardiovascular system. A good laugh leads to deep exhalations and inhalations. Oxygen surges into the bloodstream with each inhale and exhale of a hearty laugh. Deep yogic breathing has the same effect, wherein the heart, brain, and lungs become enriched as new air is drawn in and carbon dioxide is released from the body.
A 2009 study conducted by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore revealed that laughing, along with an “active sense of humor,” can protect against a heart attack and even prevent heart disease. Research shows that laughter releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals that diminish pain while triggering positive feelings. That’s why laughter feels so good, even euphoric and our bodies want to laugh.
The study found that people with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations compared to people of the same age without heart disease. Here’s a suggestion, laugh to live longer! The laughter we enjoy from a funny movie or book is good for our health. In those cases, we are laughing at the plight of others. It is another level of release to laugh at ourselves.
Think about someone of whom you would say: “He takes himself too seriously,” or, “She just can’t seem to laugh at herself?” Think about their disposition and attitude in life. Do you want to be like that? The ability to laugh at oneself is rooted in the ability to get out of our entrenched ego and step back into a more profound sense of self.
Through yoga, you learn to do this by concentrating on your breathing. Doing so creates the ability to look objectively at ourselves, our situations, circumstances and even our thought process. “What was I thinking?!” can often be the source of a good laugh.
In the first-ever study of its kind, and Willibald Ruch of The University of Zurich studied 70 psychology students to gauge their ability to laugh at themselves. The findings? Being able to laugh at oneself is not only a distinct trait, but is also linked to having an upbeat personality and good moods. Aside from authenticity and a healthy awareness of others, Dr. Ursula Beermann of the University of California, Berkeley, says that those who don’t take themselves too seriously can step back and look at themselves, or mistakes they have made, from an outside perspective. She is careful to distinguish between laughing at yourself and putting yourself down. The former is good for our well-being; the latter, putting ourselves down, in words and thoughts, is detrimental to our health.
Learning to look for the funny side of situations is akin to seeing the glass of life as half full. Our attitude sets our mental and emotional tone, and those thoughts and feelings are part of our physical body and overall health.