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Lighten up and laugh a little to help relieve daily stress

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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WACO, Texas _ When is the last time that you had an eye-watering, body-shaking belly laugh?

The relief from stress that comes from laughter is thought by many authorities to be both emotional and physical. Some mental-health experts have noted the correlation between optimism in an individual and having a good sense of humor.

Dr. William Fry, a psychiatrist and researcher in the area of humor and psychotherapy, notes that laughter may benefit a person's heart, muscles and lungs because it increases circulation and exercises the heart. If you would like to cultivate the art of laughter, humor, and optimism but don't know how to change your pattern of behavior, read on.

Do you spend time with people who like to laugh? If there is a jokester or comedian around, do you gravitate toward him or her or pull away? Laughter is contagious and associating with others who laugh will also tickle your fancy.

Humor appropriately injected in conflict situations can aid to shift the focus from anger and destructive communication patterns to a less tense and more creative atmosphere. Humor and laughter is often the flip side of anger and bitterness.

Do you ever laugh so much you have to stop yourself from laughing? Don't, unless your laughter occurs in a place where it may be totally unsuitable and offend others. Laugh as long as you can. The benefits of a long laugh are obviously better for you than a short laugh.

Can you laugh at your own mistakes? Can you see yourself as the classic Clark Griswold and enjoy your own humanness? Parents should encourage children to develop a healthy sense of humor and serve as a role model for this development. Looking at the lighter side of life certainly can help many families through tense and stressful situations.

Maybe laughter and humor are undervalued because they seem relatively unscientific, too simple and obvious when compared to other more complex techniques of stress management. Is it possible that your sense of humor needs to be exercised? If you don't value laughter, you may suppress the urge to laugh.

Try to make laughter and a good sense of humor part of your repertoire for alleviating and coping with stress. Like many of the other helpful things in life, laughter is free.

Hap LeCrone is a Waco clinical psychologist. If you have questions or topics you would like him to discuss, write to him at 4555 Lake Shore Drive, Waco, TX 76710 or e-mail him at hlecrone (at)

Cox News Service

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