THERE IS NOTHING like a good laugh, and only humans have the capacity for laughing at what seems funny. It is said that children laugh about 300 times a day, whereas we adults only laugh 17 times a day. So looking through to the New Year it would be well if did two things: up our laughter time and up our movement time. Having been diagnosed with a sure-to-do-him-in diagnosis, Norman Cousins took things into his own hands and laughed himself to health. He lays it out in his book, Anatomy of an Illness.
Back in November 1983, American Health issued an article entitled Anatomy of a Laugh, by Robert Brody. The message was that a good belly laugh was like a hearty workout to practically every organ in the body, a form of inner jogging or an inner massage. Laughing itself prompts you to secrete catecholamines, hormones that rouse you to a high-frequency alertness. Aside from distracting us from worry for a few minutes, the act of laughing can lighten stress, anxiety, depression and pain as catecholamines are released. It can even burn off a modest number of calories, but as yet I’ve not seen a Laugh Diet book.
Those catecholamines include epinephrine and norepinephrine, the same ones that are released when we engage in productive movement… exercise.
The trouble is that most exercise routines do NOT leave us laughing. The fact is that they often leave us bored, frustrated, and hurting. Bonnie understood that the American personality was easily bored, liked a challenge, and as she said over and over, “Americans will do anything to music.” To this end she introduced The Prudden Method of Exercise: Change, Challenge, and Rhythm.
- Change the exercise every 20 seconds. This means that you actually have to pay attention to what you and your muscles are doing. It also means that you can go on and on because the muscles you’ve just used are now getting a chance to recoup while you are using another set of muscles.
- Challenge by modifying the movement. This can be done by making it more difficult: increasing the range of motion, number of repetitions, or intensity.
- Rhythm – everyone has it but few of us recognize or use it on a regular basis and on purpose. Breathing is rhythm, as is speech and our heartbeat. Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophlia, tells us that the words rhyme and rhythm “derive from the Greek, carrying the conjoined meanings of measure, motion, and stream.” Very few of us can hear music without tapping, clapping or moving in some way. When we listen to music we like, the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine is released. So why not use music when you exercise? And I’m not talking about background music, I am talking about moving or movement to the music. If you have a vocabulary of movement the music will tell you which letter, word, feeling, to express…skip, hop, jump, gallop, slide, walk, run. On your toes, on the ground, in a circle, zig, zag, backward, forward. The choices are endless if you know the alphabet.
Join me in a daily warm-up which includes change, challenge and rhythm: Daily Dozen Part II: Follow Along.
You will find yourself working harder and longer and enjoying it more if you use music. And don’t forget to laugh often.
If you have questions or need help, email me at email@example.com.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®