It is about this time of year that I grow weary of winter. My joy over the first snowfall has long passed, and the warm woolen sweaters I love wearing have become constricting. I long to feel grass tickling my bare toes and cool spring breezes coming through opened windows.
Come February, winter gets old.
People seem to smile less. Normally cheerful souls turn into Eeyore. Muscles tighten in the face, down the neck, across the shoulders. Our bodies and expressions say harrumph.
While attending a regional Sweet Adelines convention, I had the opportunity to attend a talk on the healing aspects of laughter given by Pam Atwood, Director of Dementia Care Services for Hebrew Health Care in West Hartford, CT. Did you know that ten minutes of laughter a day has the same health benefits of a thirty minute aerobic workout? Not only does hearty laughter provide a good cardio workout but it also reduces stress, improves oxygen supply, and improves mood.
We have all heard that increasing our exposure to sunlight helps the winter blues, but who knew that a daily dose of your favorite comedy could also do the same?
In addition to educating us on the benefits of laughter, Ms. Atwood also shared with us a list of daily prompts suggested by the World Laughter Tour to help keep us mindful of the benefits of positivity:
Monday is for compliments, not just for others but also directed to our selves. Monday is also for saying a simple 'thank you' when receiving a compliment and for fasting from the news.
Tuesday is for flexibility. Try to find one simple thing to do that you've never done before. It could be as simple as trying a new vegetable or calling the cashier at the grocery store by name. In addition, Ms. Atwood suggests taking the word 'can't' from your vocabulary.
Wednesday is for gratitude. Ms. Atwood suggests trying a five-finger gratitude meditation. This includes giving thanks for; someone who loves you, a loving experience, a compliment that made you feel wonderful, the most beautiful place you've been, and something you love about yourself.
Thursday is for kindness. A loving-kindness meditation is perfect for this day and it can be done anywhere, in your car, while taking a walk, even in the shower. First we send thoughts of loving-kindness and blessings to someone you love, then continue on to someone you like (such as a friend), someone neutral (the person who helps you at the dry cleaner, the barista at your favorite coffee shop), someone you struggle to like or have conflicts with, and finally to all beings.
Friday is for forgiveness. It is only by forgiving those who have wronged or hurt us that we can move forward. I know, it is not always an easy thing to do, but forgiveness has the power to open your heart and lighten your burdens. Who wants to carry old resentments for the rest of their lives?
Weekends. Ah, weekends are my favorite. Weekends are for chocolate, for indulging in things that bring you joy. Take time on weekends to be with those you love doing activities that are pleasurable and fulfilling. That is the secret to a balanced life.
And laughter. Don't forget to laugh.
Sharing Nurturing Thursday with Becca.