Have You Smiled Today?

by Sue Karl, CCLS
Child Life Specialist, Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital

Are you smiling and laughing enough???   I hope so, but I don’t think so…. When did we all get so serious?  How nice is it to see a young child dancing and giggling while they wait in line at the grocery store.  But, how often do we hear their parent tell them to stand still and be quiet?  And what if you started to dance or giggle while you were in line? Oh the looks you would get!  Sad isn’t it? 

Consider this, a staggering statistic:  kids smile 400 times a day, adults 20 times a day! Sure, smiling is still a novelty when you’re a kid, but really what makes us turn those smiles off as we age?  Could we really have become so jaded that we reduce our beam wattage from 400 to 20 by the time we reach adulthood?

Consider the following data from Intelligent Life Magazine concerning the smile’s twin sister, laughter: 11 percent of laughter is a result of joke-telling; 17 percent is from media (LOL cats, YouTube, etc.) and a whopping 72 percent arises spontaneously from social interaction. That says a lot about how we get our happy fixes.  The fact is we don’t smile or laugh enough as we age.  If you are hanging around children like we do here in a children’s hospital we need to up the smiles and the laughter.

Did you know that laughter has been shown to boost hormones that can, in turn, reduce levels of stress?  That laughter can help us release endorphins which help us to relax our muscles, decrease tension, boost our immune system?  Laughter burns calories too.  So does reading this blog but that’s beside the point.

What can you do to add more laughter into your day?  Lots of things can turn that frown upside down.  Start reading the funnies and using more humor in your interactions with your peers, your partner and your children.  Read silly joke books for your own pleasure or read them with your kids and family.

If you drop something or break something make a joke about it.  I didn’t really like that plate anyway or that’s one less dish to wash.

Stop taking yourself and life so seriously.  Use a funny voice when your child has a chore they don’t want to do…PLEASE feed the dog …in an OPERA STYLE voice ….he’s really hungry sends a more pleasing signal than a sharp tone would.

Social laughter is contagious too, ever notice that when others are laughing you feel better and start to laugh a little too even if you don’t know what they are laughing about.  Sharing laughter and play also adds joy, vitality, and resilience.

Now we do have to be careful…laughter should never be used at anyone’s expense.  Insensitive joking can be offensive and distressing.  We also need to be mindful that children are just developing their sense of humor and cannot be included in joking the way that adults can.  Their sense of reality can make a joke not seem funny or just the opposite a riddle or joke that they find humorous will not hold the same value for us as adults.  How many times have you had a child tell you a knock-knock joke or a riddle only to retell it and retell it changing just one part of the joke and they laugh and laugh while we merely smirk.  That’s because of where they are developmentally.  They are just learning about humor and joke telling and need us to model positive uses.

So…. Look for the humor in a bad situation, and uncover the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you. Pay attention to the children around you they can be our teachers.  They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.

Let’s try to smile more, add more humor and play into our daily interactions it can improve the quality of your relationships— as well as your connections with children, co-workers, family members, and friends. It can help us have a better day!

References and Resources:

The Humor Project, Saratoga Springs, NY12866 www.HumorProject.com
Laughter is the Best Medicine The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter www.helpguide.org/life/humor

The Healthful Effects of Laughter, Christine Puder, The International Child and Youth Care Network, Issue 55, August 2003








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