Most Smiles Are Started By Another Smile

Most Smiles Are Started By Another Smile

By Caroline Schumsky, LCSW, MS

So have you succeeded in eliminating all stressors from your life yet? I didn’t think so. How about we do the next best thing? Prepare ourselves with some good ole coping mechanisms. Do you even know how it is you manage to cope with life’s difficulties?

I have a question for y’all. When was the last time you had a deep belly laugh? What if I told you that humor has the same effect on your brain as a drug-induced euphoria? Yes, indeed, that powerful neurotransmitter dopamine gets released when we laugh, and floods us with those “feel good” emotions and pleasure. Rolling in the aisles stimulates our immune systems and actually counteracts the effect of stress hormones. As most of us can attest to, stress can do an incredible amount of damage to your psyche. And you know what they say: “Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.”

Worrying can make you lose your hair, raise your blood pressure, and even give you a heart attack. So who wouldn’t want a natural stress reducer and symptom reliever that is free of charge, and has no side effects to boot? Of course, there may be times you feel smothered under the weight of your emotions. Is there anything too frightening or macabre to joke about? I will let you be the judge.

And now a word from our scientists: The benefits of humor are no joking matter. There is actual evidence. For starters, when you giggle or even chuckle (Does anyone really chuckle?…lol), you increase your intake of oxygen-rich air, which, in turn, stimulates your heart and all your muscles. It can also stimulate circulation and help muscle relaxation. It’s kind of like inner jogging. Now, isn’t that easier than running five miles? And you know what they say: Your mind needs exercise just as much as your body. That’s why I think about jogging every day. Heh. Then again, the faster you run, the faster you’re done.

A comedian once said: “The key is not to think of death as an end, but as more of a very effective way to cut down on your expenses.” Did you smile or smirk inside? Sometimes, the only way we know how to cope with negative or frightening things in this life is good-natured comedy. Life is a heck of a lot easier for those who can, at times, look at the absurdities of life as humorous.

How does humor work exactly? Well, for one thing, it forces us to change our negative perspective. Incidentally, clowning promotes peace. Yesiree. Ever get into an argument with someone, and right smack in the middle of your veins bulging, he makes you laugh? Game over. And as a bonus: Ten minutes of cracking up burns 50 calories. Of course, there’s always this diet tip: Next time you eat a donut, only eat the center part.

Admittedly, there are times we need to heal from a trauma or painful event before we can even think of being able to find humor in that situation. Perhaps we never will. But think of how often you were able to grin or at least be amused at things in your life once they were in the rear view. “Remember the time we…?”

They say, if you lose one sense, your other senses are enhanced. That’s why people with no sense of humor have an increased sense of self-importance. Picture a wagon with no springs. You get jolted by every single pebble in the road. That is what life is like with no kidding or comicalness in it. Comic relief encourages the body to produce its own natural painkillers.

One thing is for sure: All our lives have challenges – even obstacles – and we all make mistakes. No exceptions to that rule. But the truth is that if you can be somewhat lighthearted about your boo-boos and blunders, you actually give yourself more confidence to jump the next hurdle. Weighing yourself down in self-pity or beating yourself up will do nothing but make you sad, angry, or tense.

Whatever you do, find friends who are not afraid to laugh at themselves a bit. Positive folks have a knack for being able to find jest and wittiness in most of life’s situations. Did you ever notice how kids manage to find joy in life’s simple, everyday moments? Be a kid again.

Be generous. Be a stand-up comic and watch how it changes the temperature of the room – from reserved and chilly to a warm, friendly atmosphere. It inspires hope, connects you to others, and actually makes you more forgiving. You have the power to heal and renew. Yes, you. So c’mon and lighten that heavy load. After all, it was once said: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

Just think: We all laugh in the same language. And just remember, sweet friends: If you’re too busy to laugh, you’re too busy.

Caroline is a licensed psychotherapist, crisis counselor, and writer with an office in Queens.  She works with individuals, couples, and families.  Appointments are available throughout the week and weekends.  She can be reached at 917-717-1775 or at or at