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Front page news and our own personal woes can send us scurrying to the cookie jar for a little comfort. Here’s the best weight loss tool of all. It’s quick, easy, free, and sweet as can be. The featured videos of babies will have you giggling all the way down to the smallest pants in your closet.

There’s no doubt about it; the world’s a scary place, and getting scarier by the day. Briefly listening to the radio or reviewing your financial portfolio can be enough to send the strongest of us searching for something chocolate or cream-filled to numb the pain, dismay and disbelief. Many cities report that domestic violence and crime are up, spurred by the stress, fear, financial woes and realigned family living situations as homes and jobs are lost.

What is the world coming to?” is the question of the day as common sense seems less common by the minute and practical solutions as far as the moon.

Many of us turn to overeating for a quick, though temporary, fix for stress and turmoil. The recent article by Stanley Gardner, and the huge response of Meridian readers to his articles reveal that we’re all in abundant good company and that sugar, in all of its many varieties is our near constant companion even when we intellectually neither want or need it .

When we’re ready to indulge, there’s something else that will do the trick and provide a comforting smile with no calories. It’s just as available and actually much sweeter: Of what do I speak? A good laugh! The throw your head back and laugh until you can’t breathe, with sides aching and tears trickling kind. The joke, story or mental image that makes you start laughing just to think about it is the one worth more than gold. These fits of laughter are actual internal physical exercise that burn calories and tone the muscles underneath that fat. (Keep reading for the science behind it all!)

“Well, there’s not much to laugh at these days,” you might say. That’s what President Ronald Reagan could have said after being shot. Instead, his first response to his wife Nancy in the emergency room was “Honey, I forgot to duck.” To the doctors as he was going into surgery he quipped, “I hope you’re all Republicans!”

The Savior himself repeatedly encourages us to “lighten up.” Though we are not privy to it, in his perfection it goes with a perfect understanding that of course, he possesses a beautiful sense of humor to provide joy and laughter for his children.

In countless scriptures he uses just four words: “Be of good cheer.” He offers them without candy bars or cookies. Just words – his words –that bring lasting peace and centering.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden ( perhaps this is even literal direct counsel to those of us who battle the pounds) and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In D&C we read: “Pray always and I will pour out my spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing – yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth and corruptness to the extent thereof.. Behold canst though read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?” (D&C 19: 38:39)

What better counsel can we ask for in these troubled times! What donut, cookie or ice cream could provide more?

President Hinckley, who not only kept us all laughing with his great cheer and humor but often couldn’t help himself from laughing at his own jokes, provided a window into his own inspiring self-management with these words at a meeting for CES teachers:

“Your example will count for more than all of your words concerning church history and doctrine.  Let them see in you the fruits of a life well-lived after the pattern of the Lord.  Let your marriage be strong and solid and sweet and ennobling. Let your parenthood be an example of what they wish to be in their own
parenting .  Let there be something of a light tone in your life.  Let there be fun and happiness, a sense of humor, the capacity to laugh occasionally at things that are funny.”

And who will ever forget Elder Wirthlin’s last conference address, Come What May and Love It.: His recounting of family stories that could have been sore spots (or several candy bars in the middle of the night) became family treasures of humor and self-mastery that delight us all. How fitting that he should leave this earth knowing that he provided us all with a good laugh and wise counsel to sustain ourselves through troubling times.

There’s more than just feel good’ substance to this notion that laughter is essential for spiritual, emotional and physical health in terms of weight management. If you don’t believe me, google in “laughter and weight loss” for a plethora of both evidence and jokes, stories and videos to prove this fact.

William F. Fry, an associate professor emeritus of clinical psychiatry at Stanford University says “a belly laugh is internal jogging.” He states that laughing involves “a great deal of physical exercise and muscular behavior.” Fifteen facial muscles, plus numerous others, are flexing and relaxing during sessions or even “fits” of laughter. Once the muscles are activated and working, they cannot help but become more toned and fit. Fit muscles typically demand more energy. And energy is created by burning calories. Now that is something to ponder!

Build Muscle by Laughing

Fry says, laughing 100 to 200 times per day is the cardiovascular equivalent of rowing for 10 minutes.” Lee Berk, a pioneer in studying the physiological effects of laughter says, “The biological changes we see with moderate, routine exercise are very similar to the changes we see with constant use of mirthful laughter.”

You Won’t Eat as Much Junk

So says humor advocate Dr. Patch Adams, who founded the Gesundheit! Institute in Arlington and West Virgina , which focuses upon bringing fun and creativity into health care. “The clearest connection of laughter to weight loss is that depression, boredom and loneliness are the gigantic reasons why people eat gigantic quantities of trash and fatness,” says Adams . “It’s not really laughter that is a great power, but the life that leads to laughter and the readiness to laugh at things.”

Laughter Lowers Cortisol

Ah yes, good ol’ cortisol. When released in the body as a result of stress, food cravings increase. Laughing, according to Dr. Berk, can decrease cravings for food. He believes someday, physicians may tell their overweight patients to eat a healthy diet, be sure to exercise regularly and to have a good belly laughing session for at least 15 minutes each day.

If You Are Happy, You’re Healthy!

Laughing can relax muscle tension, benefit the respiratory system, normalize stress-related irregular heartbeat and boost the immune system. One who laughs regularly will reap numerous health benefits. And when a body is healthy, hormones are typically normalized, appetite is regulated and depression is less likely, which can be a trigger for many to overeat. Happiness and health go hand in hand!

Laughing Revs Your Metabolism

Researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville , Tennessee found in laughter studies that participants “burned 20 percent more calories when laughing as compared to not laughing at all.


” This is confirmed by lead researcher Maciej Buchowski, director of bionutrition at Vanderbilt, who calculated with his team that if an individual laughs for approximately 10 to 15 minutes per day, they could lose almost five pounds in one year, without changing anything else.

 

Now, you may be asking, what is there to laugh about?

While funny stories, movies and jokes are widely available, there’s one thing that makes us all smile immediately: babies! How perfect it is to go back in time, to a point where we, though dependent on food, did not abuse it.

Try this video of this darling baby boy laughing:

Or this little Asian 2 year old who can sing “The Lord’s prayer” by heart.

Her hysterical pig-tails alone are worth savoring and sustaining in our mind as a distraction from sugary treats.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than Anne Geddes, with her adorable photographs of babies, has filled the eternities with images that can make us laugh and laugh as we walk away from the foods that make us fat and unhealthy.

Head to your library for any of her books, and especially her autobiography, A Labor of Love” that will tell the stories of not only the remarkable photos, but her own life and childhood, which were not anyone’s bed of roses. In fact much of the inspiration for her work comes from her own difficult childhood and a desire to “make the world a better place.”

A re-reading of Doctor Gardner’s excellent article from last week and his advice will also help us on our way.

 

Well, deep breaths (literally and figuratively – for deep breathing is also extremely beneficial!) for the answers and strength that come not from a cookie, chocolate or treat, but from the wisdom to live and laugh as we master ourselves one day, one pound, one choice at a time.

 

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