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     Volume 5 Issue 93 | May 5, 2006|

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Straight Talk

Everyone say 'Cheese'

Nadia Kabir Barb

Have you ever noticed how a smile can make you feel better? At least in my case whenever someone smiles at me I find myself smiling back and regardless of what frame of mind I might have been in, I end up in a better mood. I have often been accused of smiling at people and chatting to them for no apparent reason but I just think that if I am in a shop, at the station or anywhere for that matter, it does not cost me anything to smile at the person who is assisting me nor does it take much effort to participate in a conversation however inane it might be. "Enjoy the rest of your day" is probably something the person may say to all his or her customers but a reply along the lines of "You too" accompanied with a smile is so much nicer than a grunt! My belief is that one little smile goes a long way. It is like a chain reaction or a domino effect -- if someone smiles at you then you are more likely to smile at the next person you see and voila before you know it you have started a whole smile revolution going!

I think generally speaking, those who smile more frequently come across as more approachable and friendly people. I mean if you were on the streets of a completely foreign location and you wanted to get directions, would you go for Passer-by A who had a scowl on their face or Passer-by B who smiled at you while you looked around frantically for a sign you could read. The obvious choice would be B as instinctively we feel that they would be more likely to stop and help us. I know you are wondering what exactly it is that that I am trying to say. It is simple; I think people should smile more. In fact why stop at smiling -- I think people should laugh more. It really does make the world a much nicer place to be in.

Readers' Digest was a staple diet in our household when I was growing up and I still recall spending hours pouring over its pages. One of my favourite sections used to be 'Laughter is the Best Medicine.' It always managed to put a smile on my face and on many occasions I would even catch myself laughing out loud. Last night my husband and I were out for dinner with some friends and I think I laughed so much my cheeks and stomach were aching by the end of the evening. Laughing is almost like a release of pent up energy and you feel great after having had a good laugh. The reason for this is that laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being.

According to Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. "Infants laugh almost from birth," and "people who are born blind and deaf still laugh. So we know it's not a learned behaviour. Humans are hardwired for laughter." If you think about it no one has to teach you to laugh in the same way that we learn to speak or read or write. It seems to come instinctively to humans. Nor do we need to be told when to laugh and it is very hard to laugh on call and seems to be a spontaneous outburst.

Although we may think that humans are the only species capable of laughter, evidence suggests that apes seem to laugh in a manner of speaking. 'They make a distinctive open-mouthed 'play face' and pant rapidly'. However we are probably the only animals who express laughter with a "ha ha" noise! I think laughing is also a social function as we tend to laugh more when we are in company. Unless you happen to be reading something amusing or watching something on television it is not an activity we indulge in by ourselves.

I always like to think that sometimes it is the ability to smile and laugh that gets us through difficult times. If you can smile at the world regardless of circumstances then you can overcome most adversities. Laughter can offer us a way to vent our negative emotions, and provide us a way to cope with difficult or stressful situations.

In March 1995 Dr Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri came up with the idea of laughing for no reason (obviously my kind of people) and experimented with it in their local park in Mumbai, India. They called it Laughter Yoga and it seems to have become quite a success and now there are laughter clubs not just in other parts of the country but all over the world. Repressed negative emotions, such as resentment, fear, and grief can cause biochemical changes in our bodies that can create a harmful effect and therefore being able to laugh with friends or family or even in laughter clubs can improve our over-all mental health.

One of the nicest sounds I can think of is the sound of my children giggling or laughing. It is infectious and I cannot help smiling when I hear them. Then again when you hear a great big belly laugh it is totally contagious and can be hard not to reciprocate. Did you know that the average adult laughs approximately 17 times per day? So if you think you have not met your daily quota of laughter then you had better get a move on. This is meant especially for all of you laughter misers out there. It is World Laughter day on the 7th of May and I hope that you will try and fulfil your share of laughing and smiling. Try it as an experiment and see how many people smile back at you when you smile at them. Smile at your driver when he opens the door for you, the peon in your office, the other parents at you child's school or just the other members of your family. You never know you might just enjoy it…

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