Smiling: A New View
Laughing Your Way to Better Health and a Happier Life
By: J. Marlando
To most of us, smiling comes natural. We smile when something pleases us, we sometimes smile to acknowledge appreciation for kind words and/or actions. We smile when we receive good news. Mostly we don't think much about smiling, it's just something we do. Most of us smile automatically when we greet or meet someone. In the far reaches of the meaning of a smile, it declares us friendly, open and none threatening. There are sardonic smiles of course and insincere smiles, even hateful smiles but we need not discuss them. In fact, they can do us more harm than good. After all, negative emotions such as hatefulness, resentment and deep seated anger are all detrimental to our health because, for only one thing, they weaken our immune systems.
Smiling and as we shall see, even forcing smiles are good for us
When it comes to smiling, however, I think the greatest insight was given us in a song by one of the most memorable and beloved singers, Louis Armstrong. Following below is a couple of stanzas from the song I'm referring to:
When You're Smiling
When you're smilin', when you're smilin'
The whole world smiles with you.
Yes when you're laughin' oh when you laughin'
The sun comes shinin through.
But when you're cryin', you bring on the rain
So stop your sighin baby, and be happy again
Keep on smilin, keep on smilin baby,
And the whole world smiles with you...etc.
When we do not look at the above lyrics as being merely a song but rather a metaphysical reference, we begin to realize the complex power of a simple smile. Plus, the health benefits are plentiful. Smiling has a particular yogic effect on us in that both smiling and laughing lowers our heart rate. Smiling and laughing reduced our stressful feeling and experiences. Most importantly, however, is that smiling and laughing strengthens our immune systems. It is even said that folks who smile and laugh (a lot) live at least 7 years longer than the average life span. For one thing, smiling and laughing instructs the brain to release positive, healing chemicals. We'll also be talking more about this a little later.
For now, all that is vital to understand is that you really can be healthier and happier in life (with very little effort) from the psycho chemicals delivered by your own brain, called endorphins.
In regard to all this, one of the world's leading neuroscientists, Candice Pert, who was the one that discovered receptors for neurochemical and pain-reducing opiates resting on the surface of immune cells. These discoveries gave science alternative views of the physical brain and mind: As for those scientists who would cling on to traditional observations Pert's discoveries did not change their views of the old Descartes' mind/body dichotomy, as they should have. After all, she said to writers Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi, "Is your consciousness in your head? No, it is in your whole body. I no longer believe in disease at all. Disease is one hundred percent mental. It's just your brain state being reflected in your body."
In order to obtain full benefit from this article, we will devote an entire section to a new view of the brain and its functions. After all, the goal of this narrative is to give you real ways of creating your life healthier, happier and more successful.
The Unexpected Powers of Perception
Science has been "brain-washed" by a false premise describing the human brain as housing the human mind (also known as "consciousness" and "soul). Indeed, the common belief is that the mind is a mere epiphenomenon or, in other words, a mere component of the brain. This distinction was first described by Rene Descartes who lived between 1596 and 1650. He is known for being the founder of modern philosophy. Without going too far into the subject, he was the person that took spirit out of the universe and reduced the body-brain to a mere duality of functions. As for the body, he described it as a machine. It was his description that gave birth to the reductionists who have been defining living things as being nothing more than the totality of their parts. This rather depressing, existential view has been influencing science for hundreds of years. The very reason that so many university professors profess atheism and offer the dead-world view but we need not go further into this topic.
What is most important to grasp from the above paragraph is only that, regardless of traditional beliefs, we are not our brains and our brains are not us. Indeed, in regard to this, the renowned Dr. Paul Pearsall tells us this:
We are not our brain. Even though our brain "thinks"it is "us," The brain is only a body part. A simple experiment illustrates the presence of a "self" separated from the processes of the human brain.
What is vital to understand about the above is what follows. We return to Dr, Pearsall:
...the "I", the self, is much more than the reverberation
of neurons and we are much more than we "think" we are.
We are also what we believe, hope, feel and sense. We can
tell the brain not only what but how to think.
Now then for those skeptics who do not believe in free will, Dr. Pearsall's consensus strongly supports the positive side of the free-will coin. So why don't each of us command our brains, for example, to simply smile and laugh for our good health's sake and to be wiser in practical ways. Clearly the answer is we have all been made subservient to the indoctrinations and concepts of others. Unless we are very mindful, we all get stuck in social memes and social mores. Religious fundamentalists are excellent examples of this. The idea that not following church dogmas and doctrines are tickets to hell has loaded us down with guilt and shame complexes for thousands of years. It is difficult to be happy when one is burdened with guilt, shame.
I do not want to get lost in these categories and lose sight of our major concerns, smiling and laughter, but we need to realize how we have been raised to be unhappy. For example, it is probably safe to say that we have all been raised by the significant others in our lives to believe that the world acts on us when it is really the other way around.
There is probably few feelings that matches human depression. Those who suffer from it know the agony of experiencing hopelessness and despair. Probably the worst condition of this malady is wanting to accomplish the impossible and escape the self.
What very few of us understand is that the world is really what we make it. Both unhappy and happy worlds are projections. An old example I used to use still works: If we deem the rose bush a thorn bush that is what it will become...for us!
Taking this a step further it is as Darryl Reanney explains:
...consciousness cannot be treated separately from the reality that it observes, We can assert this confidently. It is now a (virtually) unchangeable axiom of quantum mechanics that each act of observation causes the ripple possibility of the quantum wave to concretize into entities with an observable and measurable existence.
As the reader can guess this topic can demand endless miles of explanation but for purposes here all that's needed to know that you are part of the process that creates the flowers and grass in your yard. (If this is a new thought for you, you might want to read "The Eagles Quest" by Fred Alan Wolf which I will recommend at the end of this article).
For now, what we need to pay most attention to is that we are personally in charge of how we perceive the world. In simplest terms, if we deem the world happy, unhappy, cruel or kind, beautiful or ugly this is exactly what our world will become for us today. Reanney gives us the following example to make the point:
...Consider this: the eye of the bee
which we cannot. When a bee sees certain kinds of flowers, it sees
strange markings invisible to us. Those markings map out a
guidance grid, a landing track, to steer the bee toward the
source of the flower's nectar.
So what the bee sees is not what we see. Which picture of the flower is true "then?" The bees or ours?
The answer of course is both. This furthers the observation that tells us that all living things including ourselves are actually a part of the creative process in that things become real according to the organ that perceives it. The badgers world, for example, will be interpreted quite differently than the deer interprets it's world, the turtle's will see the world differently because of the way he perceives the world which will be different than the eagle interprets her world and so forth. We human's, however, construct the world as we determine (or will) it to be.
In other words our world becomes what we call it and so what we project it to be, a smile or a frown, laughter or sadness, chaotic or calm. The major point here is that we are in charge!
The Brain and our Good Health
Hopefully at this juncture the reader has reconstructed his or her "idea of the brain and the brain's functions). For one thing, it is not the seat of consciousness and therefore where our life's exists. I do believe that life may be "turned on" inside the brain and probably in the pineal gland. But once turned on the light of consciousness (call it mind) spreads throughout the entire body. This is mere theorizing of course as life remains one of Natures most amazing mysteries.
One thing for sure, the brain is not some complex computer as many scientists have been suggesting over the past few decades. Indeed, the brain is just one more gland like other glands in our bodies but a highly complex gland nevertheless. First of all, it is where the Power Company is located. In fact, everything that you do such as worry, point a finger, make a decision, smile and laugh is the result of an electrical event or electrical events in that 3-pound wonder between our ears. Without going too far into the topic it will serve us to know that our brains communicate through neurons or, in other words, nerve cells. Where I differ from most other theorists is that I do NOT accept the common proposal that ideas, feelings and so forth are the workings of the brain. I am convinced that it is the "I" of us that chooses and feels and it is only after the brain receives the message it then transmits that message to the body. I'll explain this more fully a little later. For now, however, we need to know that the brain is also a chemical factory which we briefly mentioned earlier.
The psychochemicals that our brains produce go into production on depending what it is told to do by the authority in a person's life or by the "I" of the person belonging to that particular mind/body.
A perfect example of social engineering is of course the theocratic indoctrination of the suicide bomber who simply believes what he has been indoctrinated to believe. In other words his brain has been, in a term, saturated with religious-politico propaganda. This has happened to all of us to one extent or another. Our own parents for example hold tremendous power over us because they have consciously or unconsciously indoctrinated us with their values and beliefs. Because our brains are a blank slate when we enter this world we are vulnerable to all kinds of right and wrong information. All successful religions begin to indoctrinate the children at very young ages. Early Bible study is an extension of that indoctrination. (I have a good Mormon friend who I once asked, "have you ever studied other religions such as Zen or Buddhism or Catholicism or Transcendentalism?" And my friend answered, "Absolutely not, why should I when I already have the truth."
Our brains have no truths of their own. What they are told is all that they know. Here are some typical health instructions that we have all made more than once in our lives:
It just makes me sick
It almost gave me a heart attack
I'd rather be dead
This is such a lousy world
I'm just not happy
The above list could go on for many pages but you get the idea. These are the kinds of instructions that our brains are given often.. Most people are far more apt to say they hate life opposed to saying that they love life. No matter what we say, if we say it repeatedly or if we are told something repeatedly, our brains will act on that information. Here's a good example of what I am getting at: If a parent (the authority in a child's life) calls their child "slow." That child may develop a "slow heart beat" or slow "liver" or sluggish kidneys and so forth. This is how the brain manifests what it has been told into physical responses.
When we agree with scientists like Candice Pert and Paul Pearsall that all disease is mental, we need to realize that no one believes that an individuals gives him or herself dreaded cancer or boils or liver or heart trouble. But rather that our stress, our inner-angers, our hatefulness, our deep seated sorrow and so forth are often manifested in these illnesses and conditions. For one thing hate, anger, jealousy, stress along with other negatives actually reduce the effectiveness of our immune systems. And, as a result, we become far more vulnerable to serious diseases.
And this completes the circle leading us back to the importance of smiling and laughing.
Smiling and Laughing Our Way to Wellness
No one can tackle these subjects without talking about Norman Cousins. Back in 1964, Norman was diagnosed with a very serious disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. This meant that the connective tissues in his spine were deteriorating and depleting his body of vitamin C at an exceedingly rapid pace. It was said that his chances for survival were right around 500 to 1 so death was virtually right around the corner.
Norman decided to do what he could to save himself so he started researching all the medications that he was taking. He convinced the doctors to take him off all medicine and inject him with large quantities of vitamin C. Then he chose to check out of the hospital and into a hotel room. He bought a bunch of funny films including the old Candid Camera shows and Marx Brothers movie and permitted himself to laugh...and laugh...and laugh. Within a very short time he was back to work. His laughter had told his brain that he was just fine and so his brain produced the psychochemicals of healthy "find-ness" ridding him of the destructive disease. It took some time but soon enough he was back to his old self living a full life. (We are reminded of the old Reader's Digest axiom: Laughter is the Best Medicine).
Recall now, what was said earlier about how the brain operates on the information given it. Indeed, when we say that we are depressed today...feeling bad or good today, our brains, working akin to Genie in the lamp, grants us what it believes we are telling it. The brain is not the creator of ideas but rather subservient to them. We see this in everyday situations. When we tell our brains we are bored, we are given boredom, when we tell our brains we are happy we are given happiness. Saying I wish I was happy is a negative of course, it implies sadness or dissatisfaction, in the least, the absence of happiness. When we comprehend that the brain only knows what it is told we comprehend how to give it direction. That is, to tell it how to respond to our desires to be healthier and happier.
There are many times that we do not feel like smiling or laughing of course. But this is where discipline arrives. It's just fine to feign smiling. Your brain doesn't know what is real and what isn't, what is truth and what are lies. Tell your brain enough times that butter makes you sick and see what happens.
You can also do much to not only improve your state of mind but your state of health as well by feigning hardy laughter. You needn't embarrass yourself. Just go where you can have some privacy and howl with laughter, real or false, it doesn't matter In a very short time you will see positive changes in your health and, for that matter, in your life.
(Stuff to Think About)
Babies smile a lot in their sleep and soon enough when they are awake. This is not without reason, smiling permits more oxygen to reach the brain.
Both smiling and laughing literally improves the immune system. According to some statistics people that smile a lot, live longer. Smiling and laughter are most simply good for us.
Because of how the brain works the old Henry Ford saying becomes axiomatic, "If you think you can or if you think you can't, you are right." And, it is as easy to work with a smile on your face as it is to wear a frown.
And finally, remember this
References & Suggested Further Reading
Hooper, Judith with Teresi Dick * Tatcher/Putman Book
Pearsall, Paul * Super Joy * Bantam Books
Reanney, Darryl * After Death * William Morrow and Company
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a lot for reference.