What's the best gift for Valentine's Day? A belly laugh. Not a wimpy snicker or a timid giggle, but a full-body experience that is triggered in the brain, rumbles up from the gut, and erupts with an emotional release that causes eyes to water, noses to run, and feet to stomp. This display of delight should be repeated as often as possible, but not while driving or carrying a full martini.
Studley and I were in our fifties when we met and married, so we didn't need to focus on the demands of establishing careers and raising children together. We just get to play house and stay active enough to chase each other around the hot tub. We've discovered the joy of living out loud, and that includes, but is not limited to, spontaneous bouts of laughter.
One of my favorite photographs shows us laughing during our wedding on the Greek island of Paros. I look like a disheveled sack of spuds because it was windy by the chapel on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and my hair was a mess. We had an Ancient Greek ceremony so we wore bulky linen togas tied with a rope, and by the time the photograph was taken, my laurel wreath had gone with the wind. And the photo shows the hands of a little, one-eyed musician playing a goat bladder. But, I'm laughing. With gusto.
The world continues to turn like a smoldering compost pile, and sometimes it's difficult to find something that causes laughter. I recommend watching a comedy or reading a humorous book or watching toddlers play. When my children were little, we would watch the I Love to Laugh song in the Mary Poppins video and repeat the scene several times until we were gasping in fits of giggles. Chuckling with children is almost as much fun as laughing with your lover.
I don't go to movies that are excessively violent or scary because the images fill my imagination with terrible thoughts that haunt me for months, and I’m trying to reduce the time I spend watching or reading the news. Last week I watched a crime drama on television that gave me nightmares and I woke up yelling. I'd much rather wake up laughing. Studley agrees with that fact.
Some women have a fear of boisterous laughter because guffawing makes them snort or wet their pants. I don’t see any problems with that. By midlife we either accept that our bodies will betray and embarrass us on a daily basis or we go live in the basement and watch sad movies. It takes brave risk-takers to open up and hoot with wild abandon. Besides, laughter is good for your health. Studies show that regular laughing boosts your immune system, oxygenates your blood, tightens your stomach muscles, and releases healthy chemicals in your brain that improve your mood. Happiness really is the best medicine.
In case you've forgotten how to laugh, try this technique:
1. Squint your eyes.
2. Pull your mouth into a tight grin
3. .Make a high squeal then lower your voice and make a series of “Ha, Ha, Ha.”
4. Rock back and forth.
5. Repeat several times.
If that doesn't make you chuckle, it certainly will amuse those around you. And, that's a good start. Make it a noble goal to laugh several times a week and you’ll discover that more people want to be around you. Stock up on crackers, cheese, and wine because there are hoards of miserable people searching for laughter. It’s your duty to share the joy.