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Laughter Fuels Happiness – Rhonda Hull, Ph.D.

A few years ago I had the joy of speaking for a group of nurses in Boston. My sister, who is a nurse in the east bay of San Francisco, joined me to attend the class to satisfy some of her continuing education requirements. While we were there, a local outdoor ice skating rink was open. Despite the fact that it had been years since we last had skates on our feet we decided to take a spin. After all, in my heart I am still young and the 3, 4, and 5 year olds made it look so easy!

We knew we were in trouble before we even got on the ice. Being shaky on the black squishy rubber that surrounded the rink didn’t stop us. With our ankles leaning toward one another like magnets, we bumbled our way onto the ice. Little people whizzed all around us as my sis and I inched our way around the rink, never letting go of the rail. Then the inevitable happened. It came time to cross the open space before the next stretch of secure railing. The opening seemed like the Grand Canyon and the people entering and exiting the ice had little compassion. My sister let go of her secure hold first. I was right behind. She made it to the other side of the railing and latched on, however, I was in the divide with nothing but her backside to hang on to. The giggles began. We both shook with laughter and I flailed enough to somehow safely reach the new stretch of railing. We did not fall, yet there was an accident to deal with. We had laughed so hard we wet our pants!

Before we left the ice we asked someone to take our picture (from the waist up, of course) so that we would always remember the joy and laughter shared. Laughter feels so sweet!

As young children when we laugh and act silly, we are not only having fun, we are also training our brains and practicing our social skills, logical thinking and creativity. According to Life Learning (November/December 2004), a Canadian magazine about child rearing, laughing is an extraordinarily complex activity that uses many of the same cognitive skills needed for problem solving. Laughing and silly behavior stimulates fantasy and teaches children to look at situations from various viewpoints and to put them into perspective.

Laughter is fuel for happiness – not only for children. As adults we tend to take life far too seriously and forget to laugh. Laughter is a wonderful form of stress release. As my sister and I experienced through our ice skating adventure, happiness and laughter are also contagious. How long has it been since you started laughing uncontrollably? Go rent a funny movie, tell a few jokes, or if you are really daring, go ice-skating!

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