Step 2–own the feelings that you are having and make sure you are accountable to yourself for them!
Step 3–your leg should be talking back to you for stomping, telling you it is not happy about the residual feeling, your ownership of your feelings ought to have you motivated to be in control of how you feel, now you’re ready to break the bonds of crabby and get happy.
The most powerful reality is that our body does what our mind directs, and so when we are laughing and enjoying an experience, our body is releasing chemicals from our brain into our system that relax our body and make us feel great. Laughter is actually a highly complex process; it involves complicated brain activities leading to a positive effect on our overall health. In the early 1970s Norman Cousins, who was the long-time editor of the Saturday Review, suggested the idea that humor and the associated laughter can benefit a person’s health. His ground-breaking work, as a layperson diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, documented his use of laughter in treating himself—with medical approval and oversight—right into remission. He published his personal research results in the New England Journal of Medicine and is considered one of the original architects of mind-body medicine. His books, Anatomy of an Illness, The Healing Heart, and Head First are excellent resources of great information.
Cousins’ pioneering work began with his frustrations about how people treat you when you are sick, especially while you’re in the hos- pital. In fact, his inspiration was his agony, which was a direct result of his hospital stay. Frustrated by the depressing and drab hospital envi- ronment, he checked out and moved into a hotel room across the street, where he hired nurses to tend to him. He had his doctors visit him there, where he rented all of his favorite funny movies and surrounded himself with beauty and joy and life—and this had amazing impact.
People thought he was a little nuts because although he was very ill, he talked about wanting to feel happy and joyous to help him revive from sickness and stress. Maybe he was a little crazy, but his attitude led to his recovery and the long litany of research that it inspired. I’ll share more details about the research for you later, but the point is that when we release our self from the junk we think about and say to our self, we benefit in tangible ways.
Loma Linda University and Harvard School of Medicine have both conducted decades of research that show clearly that the human body’s response to laughter optimizes the functions of various body systems. It affects things like the hormones in the endocrine system, decreasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine that lead to stress reduction. They’ve also shown that laughter has a positive effect on modulating components of the immune system, including increased production of antibodies and activation of the body’s protective cells, such as T-cells and especially the “natural killer cells” that are activated to kill tumor cells. Laughter causes the body to respond in a way similar to moderate physical exercise and enhances your mood, decreases stress hormones, enhances immune activity, lowers bad cholesterol and systolic blood pressure, and raises good cholesterol (HDL).
The question here is, how do you make it happen? The answer is simple: you direct your mind to engage in the activities of happiness and to just give in to what is funny . . . and enjoy it!
Are you wondering how? I mean, if you’re in a horrible mood and your mind has gotten hold of you and you just can’t shake that angry feeling from those thoughts of what your boss did to you today, or how your friend acted when you told them something important—whatever it is—what then? This is where your true inner strength comes in and what you say to your self matters more than ever. You have absolutely got to grab your self and know who is in control. The experience of stress can literally kill us! And the experience of stress is something that is an experience that the mind interprets. Every bit our daily living experience is interpreted by us, every single bit, so why not put the best, most favorable spin on things?
When your boss really is a jerk, what do you have to lose by telling your self that the person is not nearly as fortunate as you, because at least you know better than to treat someone in that way. Or when that idiot on the road cuts you off, what harm does it do to you to say to your self that the poor slob is probably on the way to an emergency appoint- ment to the dentist for an incredibly painful toothache—you have noth- ing to lose, that’s true! BUT on the flip side, if you get mad, allow the frustration to get hold of you, and you explode inside your own thoughts or you scream out loud, you harm your own physiology because you raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, constrict your blood vessels, and literally risk having a heart attack as a result.
There’s a great book entitled Is It Worth Dying For? written by a guy who behaved badly with his own self-talk for decades, and then, in his fifties, had a massive heart attack and wondered what the heck he could have been doing differently. He came to realize in the agony of the attack itself (which can be excruciatingly painful) and during the surgery and the long recovery, that nothing, seriously nothing, was worth getting so psychologically bent out of shape about that it was worth dying for.
I have a goal here for you.
This is a big, serious goal.
I want for you to be able to sit quietly and, at any given moment, talk to yourself in the most genteel manner you can imagine, like you would to someone you really love and care about who is in some form of pain. What are your words to yourself? What would you say to them? How would you comfort them?
Think about it for a minute here.
I’m betting that you thought of someone very dear . . . and you came up with a great script of what to say. I’m also betting that you did a sincerely exquisite job of providing care and of sharing good thoughts and directing them in helpful ways.
Excellent . . . but how about you, now? Can you honestly say that you can, and do, deliver the same quality of messaging and caring to your own self?