Pillow fights, the tickle monster, crazy dancing
with the kids, Eddie Murphy, America's Funniest Home Videos and
reader Debbie Walton's goat call get the chuckles started. But
mostly, our kids light up our laughter meter. Here's more of
your laughter-inducing moments:
"To add more laughter to our lives we have what we like to
call comed hour. We all take turns telling really corny jokes (most
are so not funny you have to laugh). We do this once a week, the
kids love it and so do we!"
"My husband and I crack each other up by mimicking the
lady in the IKEA commercial who hollers, "Start the car, start the
CAR!" We'll use the same tone for other things like "mow the lawn"
or "call the kids." It's corny but keeps us sane."
"For us it's simple. Our 2-year-old son loves to dance.
The other day I popped in the 25th anniversary DVD of the historic
Chicago Bears Super Bowl champs doing the 'Super Bowl Shuffle.' The
funniest part was our son's final pose when the song ended. He even
had on some 'Punky QB' sunglasses."
"My husband and I have a 6-month-old. We both work full
time and with a first child, we are still getting used to the grind
of new parenthood, careers, housekeeping, etc. Does anyone ever get
"used to" it all? So when we get home from our hectic days, the
first thing we do is put in a CD and dance with our baby. He
giggles and smiles and when his giggles turn into belly laughs, we
know, despite the craziness, we're doing some things
"We love to have our youngest make fish faces. It is so
silly and cute; she really just makes us laugh with the littlest
Laughter is evoked in our house by the most simple things:
a knock-knock joke told by our 8-year-old son, tickle times, a
little girl's giggle, mom's general clumsiness, dad's weird sense
of humor, seeing a funny movie, and watching our pets' antics. My
husband's motto is: Being normal is boring!"
"The way that my husband and I add more laughter to our
lives is by looking back at our VERY OLD family videos when we were
kids with our now 3-year-old son."
To embrace a find-the-funny attitude, give these
strategies a try:
My 7-month-old daughter is at the stage where she
likes to grab things and try to shove them in her mouth. One of her
favorite targets? The springy curls of her 5-year-old brother. We
were playing on the floor together when she crawled over to him and
yanked a handful of hair.
"Owwww! Haley hurt me!" Ryan's eyes filled with tears, and
I knew I had two seconds to short-circuit a meltdown.
"Haley!" I said, gently extricating her chubby fingers
from Ryan's curls. "Stop beating up your brother." Then I turned to
Ryan. "Can you believe a baby is beating up a 5-year-old?" I shook
my head. "That is totally crazy!"
Ryan stopped crying and started to laugh. "Yeah, that is
crazy! I can't believe a little baby is beating me up!" Not only
did we avert a crisis, now Ryan and I laugh every time Haley
"brings the pain."
As a mom, I try to put a funny spin on things not only for
my kids' benefit, but for my own. But I was surprised to learn that
laughing not only makes me feel better, it's actually helping
protect my health.
"Laughter and health are pretty closely related," says
therapist James Masica, a public speaker who leads laughter
workshops for a variety of audiences. "Laughter is a physical
act-it's different than comedy or humor. The physical act of
laughter changes our body chemistry in a number of significant
ways. Basically everything that can be made better is made
better-your blood pressure drops, your immune system is bolstered,
serotonin (a brain chemical that produces a feeling of relaxation)
and endorphins are released."
Published research has proven a link between laughter and
immune systems, says Mary Bennett, director of the Western Kentucky
University School of Nursing in Bowling Green. "There have been
several studies looking at different aspects of laughter and health
that show a brief period of laughter boosts the immune system,
which fights off disease and helps fight off cancer," she
"But we don't know what the dose of laughter needs to be
and we don't know how long the effect lasts."
In addition, laughter has a beneficial effect on
"When you laugh, you take nice deep breaths, you get more
oxygen and your blood pressure and heart rate go up," Bennett says.
"Then afterwards, they drop. There's a tension/release
That effect also may help with how stressed you
Bennett conducted studies where people reported their
stress levels before and after watching a funny video. Those who
watched a funny video (compared with those who watched a travel
video) reported less stress afterwards. Those who watched the
travel video reported no change in stress levels. The change in
perceived stress was attributed to laughing.
"This isn't just about watching a funny video or listening
to a comedian," says Bennett. "You have to laugh to get the related
improvement. … There's something about the physiology and the
mental release of laughing that works."
Surprisingly, even "fake" laughter can produce these kinds
of benefits. One often-cited study found that adults who forced
themselves to laugh for one minute reported an improved mood
"We think something funny happens and then we laugh," says
Masica. "But think of first laughing and then things seem to be
funny. The body doesn't know and doesn't care if we're laughing at
our favorite comedy or because we decide to push air out of our
Simulated laughter changes your body chemistry just like
real laughter, she says. "Your stress hormones go down, the world
looks brighter, and you find yourself less annoyed and less hassled
at the petty annoyances of life."
More people are taking time to laugh-laughter clubs have
sprung up throughout the country and "laughter yoga" is gaining
popularity, too. With laughter yoga, created by a family physician
in India in 1998, people get together to do a series of exercises
to stimulate laughter; even forced laughter soon morphs into
It may sound funny, pardon the pun, to get together with
other people to laugh, but adherents say it works.
"You might feel silly before you do it or when you start
doing it, but it feels good," says Masica.
Even with laughter clubs and laughter yoga, though, adults
laugh far less often than children. "The ratio is about one-tenth,"
says Masica. "Children laugh about 200 to 300 times a day while
adults laugh 12 to 20 times a day."
So how can you boost your own laughter
First, make an effort to look at the funny side of
"You've got to cultivate a mental atmosphere within
yourself," says Masica. "You can choose your response to what
happens to you. So when that guy on the freeway cuts you off, you
have a choice. You can choose to pound the steering wheel or you
can laugh and say, 'What are you going to do?'"
In addition, "find out what pushes your laughter button
and go expose yourself to as much of it as you can," says Bennett.
"A daily dose of laughter is a great thing."
For me, there's nothing like the sound of my children
laughing together. Their laughter is truly joyous-and contagious.
If it's keeping me healthy, too, that's just a wonderful
Kelly James-Enger laughs as much as she possibly can from
Downers Grove-especially when she's hanging out with her mom, who
passed on a goofy sense of humor.
Kelly James-Enger is a former lawyer, a mom of two and a freelance writer.
See more of Kelly's stories here.
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